Home water supplies often contain dissolved minerals, gasses, bad smells, and unsightly appearances that are objectionable to the homeowner. Usually, these problems can be easily corrected by the use of proper Water Treatment Technologies. Common water problems, their causes, and Corrective Water Filtration Treatments are presented here. Frequently there can be several methods of correcting a given problem. The selection of the type of equipment and treatment depends on the severity of the problem, the amount of attention the homeowner desires to give the equipment, the cost of the equipment, and the amount of water available to assure proper equipment performance. It is a very good idea to never under any circumstances select or install equipment on a private water supply without first obtaining a water analysis. A water test will give the homeowner sufficient information in MOST cases. However, a problem of taste, odor, severe corrosion, or blue or black staining suggests elements present that cannot be determined by a limited test. Send a water sample to our office, or if contamination is suspected, send a water sample to your Local or State Board of Health. Please call us at 316-640-2237 if you have any questions.
GLOSSARY OF COMMON TERMS USED IN WATER TREATMENT
- Grains per Gallon (GPG) - A means of expressing the number of dissolved minerals in the water. One grain per gallon equals 17.1 parts per million (ppm).
- Parts Per Million - a common term used in water analysis. One part per million (ppm) equals one pound per million pounds of water. Parts per million may be converted to grains per gallon by dividing by 17.1.
- One part per million is equal to one milligram per liter.
- Compensated Hardness - Always used for determining water softener capacity. It takes into account the amount of iron present in the water as well as hardness content. To determine the compensated hardness, add three times the iron content in ppm to the actual hardness.
- Example: Actual hardness = 45 grains per gallon, Iron content = 3 ppm (parts per million, same as mg/L, or milligrams per Liter). Three times the iron content (3x3)=9 plus the actual hardness - 45 equals a compensated hardness of 54 grains per gallon.
- Ion - Electrically charged ions form when any mineral is dissolved in water. (e.g. when common salt (NaCl) is dissolved in water it forms positively charged ions (NA+) and negatively charged ions (CL-). The positively charged ions are called cations and the negatively charged ions are anions.)
- PH - This term is used to express the acidic or basic strength of water. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral indicating a balance between acidic and basic elements. Values below 7 indicate increasing acid strength as the pH approaches 0. Values above 7 indicate increasing basic strength as the pH approaches 14. Return to top.
COMMON WATER PROBLEMS AND THEIR CORRECTIONS
HARDNESS - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Hardness is due to calcium and magnesium dissolved in water and is measured in grains or ppm. Iron can also contribute to hardness. These elements form scale in piping, water heaters, and dishwashers causing expensive repairs. Hard water increases soap consumption, starches your laundry, leaves a scratchy feeling after bathing, leaves hair hard to manage, scales glasses and dishes, and affects taste and tenderness of many cooked foods. Hardness is removed with a water conditioner(or water softener). The proper size and type of treatment device depend upon 1. The compensated hardness (iron content determined) 2. The amount of water used per day (outside faucets excluded) 3. Flow rate required While this is a matter of opinion to many consumers, usually a water treatment device should be installed when the water has over 5 grains of hardness. By most accounts, anything 5 grains and over is considered hard water and will scale. It is important to understand that the word "hardness" is not a technical term, merely a term of descriptive convenience, hence the difficulty sometimes in determining what exactly is hard water. An effective way to treat hard water is by installing a Hard Water Bullet or Calcium Scale Reduction System.
IRON- EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.3 ppm
Iron in water imparts a disagreeable metallic taste. It combines with the tannin in tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages to produce an unpleasant gray to black appearance. It causes red stains in toilets, plumbing fixtures, tableware, and laundry. As little as 0.3 ppm of iron can cause these problems. Iron can exist in water in one of two forms or both. Treatment depends on the form of iron present. Waters containing "ferrous iron" are clear and colorless when drawn. Exposure to air converts ferrous iron into the insoluble, reddish-brown "ferric iron". Iron may be removed from water by the following methods, depending upon the amount and type of iron present.
FERROUS IRON - A water softener can remove up to 5 ppm of ferrous iron depending upon the size and the type of softener. Very large water softeners can remove up to 10 ppm of iron.
FERRIC IRON - If the water contains considerable ferric iron as evidenced by a reddish-brown color, use a sediment filter ahead of the water softener. The sediment filter will remove a portion of the insoluble ferric iron and the water softener the soluble ferrous iron.
If a water softener is not your cup of tea, there are other Whole House Iron Water Filters that can remove the iron content in your water: Oxidizing filters are the most practical because of lack of maintenance and chemicals.
Oxidizing Iron Filters: 1 cubic ft Oxidizing filters can remove up to 10 ppm of both ferric (oxidized) and ferrous (clear) iron. They work well with all types of private water system pressure tanks. Sulfur removal is also possible with these filters when levels are 2.0 ppm or less. In cases where both iron and sulfur are present, it is suggested that a sediment filter/water softener combination be installed for the removal of all iron. Premium oxidizing iron filters require backwashing and regeneration without chemicals, Do not use oxidizing filters on water supplies that have a pH of 6.8 or less unless you install a Filox Iron Water Filter. For well systems that have less than 7 GPM, it is recommended that you install a Katalox Well Water Iron Filter system. Your best solution for application having less than 10 PPM iron and neutral PH (7.5) is a chemical-free Whole House Iron Water Filter
Bacterial Iron - this means of iron removal is recommended only when sulfur, extreme iron bacteria, or taste and odor problem also exists. Use a chemical solution pump to feed chlorine (household bleach) into the line ahead of the pressure tank. Chlorine causes Iron Bacteria in the water to form particles that can be filtered. On low pH waters, an acid-neutralizing compound should be added to the chlorine solution to facilitate iron removal. Use an activated carbon filter following the pressure tank to remove the iron particles as well as any excess chlorine. NOTE - THE SUCCESS OF THIS METHOD OF IRON REMOVAL DEPENDS UPON AT LEAST 20 MINUTES OF CONTACT TIME FOR THE CHLORINE TO FULLY REACT WITH THE IRON. THIS CONTACT TIME CAN BE PROVIDED BY A LARGE PRESSURE TANK OR AN ADDITIONAL STORAGE TANK. Read more about Treating Iron Bacteria
Acidic and Iron Corrosion - Waters with a pH below 7 (acid waters) usually will cause iron-pick-up in piping systems and contribute to iron staining problems. Blue to green staining will result if the piping is copper. The lower the pH, the greater the corrosive tendency of the water. The recommended pH limits of water for use in the home are 7.0 to 10.6. Waters with a pH less than 6.8 contain sufficient acidity to cause significant corrosion and should always be treated. Waters containing appreciable amounts of oxygen also tend to be corrosive. Two common methods of treatment to prevent corrosion are 1. Neutralization of acidity with an alkaline material. 2. Surface protection with polyphosphate.
Neutralization of Acid Waters - Acid neutralizing filters contain a mineral that reacts with acidity to raise the pH of water. This process slowly dissolves the mineral and adds a few grains of hardness to the water. Because of the increased hardness and the iron content, a softener is recommended after the mineral is added. The combination of an acid neutralizer filter and softener can be applied to acidic waters containing up to 15 ppm of iron. Acid neutralizing filters require frequent backwashing and the addition of several pounds of mineral once a year.
Chemical Solution Pump - A chemical solution pump may be used to feed a solution of acid neutralizer into the water system. The feed solution is prepared by dissolving a rapidly soluble powder form of acid neutralizer in water. Both the strength of the feed solution and the chemical solution pump rate can be adjusted to produce any desired pH. On private well systems, the chemical solution pump is wired into the pressure switch so that it operates with the well pump. In the absence of an electrically operated well or water pump (i.e. city or gravity pressure supply), it would be best to use an acid-neutralizing filter. Acid neutralizer solution used with a chemical solution pump provides positive pH elevation without the addition of hardness. After initially setting the pump, no attention is required other than periodic solution preparation and occasional check of pH. Elevating the pH to 8.2 will eliminate the corrosive effects of carbon dioxide which may be present in the water as a dissolved gas. Surface protection with PolyPhosphate - Polyphosphate is widely used to protect water systems from corrosion. It is not a treatment of water, but instead a treatment of the metal surfaces of the water system. The water is used as a carrier to take polyphosphate to these surfaces where a thin protective film is formed on the metal. This film insulates the metal from attack by oxygen and other corrosive elements. Return to top.
CHLORINE- EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Chlorine taste and odor in the water is usually caused by Chlorine's deliberate introduction into municipal water supplies for the destruction of bacteria and volatile organics. Chlorine can exist in water in its free state (Called free chlorine) or can make chlorine compounds. Both are equally objectionable. The most cost-effective method to remove chlorine from the water is through a back washable granular activated carbon filter. This non-maintenance solution eliminates the need to continually change cartridge filters and the media lasts much longer than the cartridge counterparts. Carbon Filter Cartridges can also be used, but a block carbon filter lasts longer and provides better sediment filtration than a granular activated cartridge filter. If a reverse osmosis system is used, use only a CTA membrane.
MUSTY, MOLDY, OR WOODY SMELL -EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Caused by the decay of organic matter or non-harmful bacteria. Use a back washable carbon filter to remove the taste, odor, as well as sediment. In severe cases, chlorination of the well and piping system will be necessary. A Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System will be the best choice for this kind of water issue. OIL OR GAS - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: Varied based on compound Caused by natural elements in underground water or by leakage of oil or gasoline storage tanks. Activated carbon filters have been successful in many cases. However, because of the many constituents which might cause this type of taste and odor, results cannot be guaranteed. If you have water that has absorbed petroleum products, please send a sample to us, we can have it analyzed and prescribe proper treatment.
ROTTEN EGG ODOR IN COLD WATER- EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Caused by hydrogen sulfide gas. This gas is very corrosive and will react with iron to form a black sludge of iron sulfide. Most sulfur waters contain from 1 to 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide. Use a chemical feed pump to feed chlorine (bleach) into the line ahead of the pressure tank (3 ppm of chlorine is required for each ppm of hydrogen sulfide). Chlorine causes the formation of sulfur particles that can be filtered. Install an activated carbon filter following the pressure tank to remove the sulfur particles as well as any excess chlorine. If it is your desire to have a non-maintenance, non-chemical solution, an aerator (up to 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide) will solve your problem.
ROTTEN EGG ODOR IN HOT WATER ONLY- EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Caused by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Since a magnesium anode in the water heater creates a condition favoring their growth, remove the magnesium anode. Drain and flush the water heater and chlorinate the water heater. Install a polyphosphate feeder on the cold water inlet to the water heater for corrosion protection or replace the original anode rod with an aluminum or zinc anode rod
SALTY OR BRACKISH TASTE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 250 mg/L Caused by high chloride or sulfate content. When the total of chlorides and sulfates exceeds 65 grains per gallon, the disagreeable taste will be noticed by almost all people. Filtering by Reverse Osmosis is the best way to solve this problem.
SEWAGE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: Varies on compound The first thing to do if you suspect that your water is contaminated by sewage is to send a water sample to your local, provincial, or national governing body to determine if sewage pollution is present in your water supply. Eliminate the source of contamination if possible (Surface runoff, cracked well casing, proximity to a septic tank, faulty well seal, etc..). Next, install a chemical feed pump to feed chlorine (household bleach) into the system to a slight excess (i.e. more than is required to react with the amount of contamination present). This assures sufficient chlorine in the system to protect against small fluctuations in the amount of contamination present. Install a drip valve after the chlorinator and get a test kit to test chlorine content. Install a back washable carbon filter to remove excess chlorine and test for chlorine both before the block carbon filter and after. The reduction of chlorine should be considerable. Finally, a reverse osmosis unit at the end of the process is recommended (CTA membrane).
NITRATES - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 10 mg/L Nitrates occur in water as a result of seepage through nitrate-bearing rocks or soils. The nitrate may also come from fertilizers or pollution with organic wastes. Cyanosis ("blue baby") may occur in infants whose drinking or formula water contains a high concentration of nitrates. Water containing more than 10-20 ppm of nitrate expressed as nitrogen should not be used for infant feeding. Nitrate is reduced to Nitrite in the body. Nitrates can be removed from drinking water through Reverse Osmosis. Reductions of up to 96% are achieved. Nitrates may also be removed throughout the whole house with a Nitrate selective Anion Resin Water Conditioner.
FLUORIDES - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 2 mg/L Fluoride in water can be both good and bad, depending on the levels of concentration. Research has shown that a concentration of about one milligram per liter (mg/L or ppm) of fluoride in drinking water reduces tooth decay. When drinking water contains excessive fluoride above two ppm, it causes "endemic dental fluorosis". Sometimes called "Colorado Brown Stain", it appears as a dark brown spotting of the teeth or causes them to become chalky white. Above four milligrams of fluoride per liter can cause crippling skeletal fluorosis, a serious bone disorder. Reverse Osmosis systems are effective at removing up to 96% of all Fluorides present in water. A less expensive way to remove fluorides is through a tricalcium phosphate filter.
CARBON DIOXIDE OR CARBONIC ACID - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Rainwater as it is falling through the sky absorbs Carbon Dioxide to make Carbonic Acid. This acid when it comes into contact with limestone absorbs the calcium from the limestone and this chemical reaction is where hard water comes from. At times, the carbonic acid can't dissolve any substance in the ground, remains acidic, and waits until it gets into a homeowner's house before it begins to dissolve metal pipes and appliances. In certain parts of the country where this problem is prevalent, it is serious. The solutions are several, but probably the most effective is feeding a solution of soda ash sodium carbonate (NA2CO3). The carbonic acid and the sodium carbonate react directly to form sodium bicarbonate. This method of treatment offers the advantage of not adding hardness to the water. If Carbon Dioxide is acute, installing an aerator may be all that is necessary to raise the pH. For fewer maintenance solutions, passing the water through a calcite feeder effectively neutralizes the carbonic acid and leaves the water slightly hard.
SODIUM - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A High concentrations of sodium tend to increase the corrosive action of water, give it an unpleasant taste, and tend to hamper the operation of ion-exchange softeners in the removal of hardness. Reverse Osmosis, distillation, and deionization remove sodium from the water. METHANE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A Wells that contain methane are generally located in areas where gas and oil wells are common sights. When water contains methane gas it is important to aerate it prior to use for either industrial or household purposes. PHENOL - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: N/A An industrial waste. In concentrations as low as 1 part per billion, this can cause an objectionable taste in chlorinated water due to the formation of chlorophenols. This may be removed by a back washable carbon filter. LEAD - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.015 mg/L At one time it was not generally known that Lead could be poisonous. Unfortunately, this was a time when many of our cities were beginning to provide underground plumbing to many neighborhoods. Lead was used as a soldering agent to fix pipes together. Lead can be extremely dangerous to small children and should be a priority to eliminate. Certain carbon filters are good lead deterrents as well as a mixed bed de-ionizer.
TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS (TDS) - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 500 mg/L Pure water is a good conductor of electricity, true or false? The answer might surprise you. Pure water is a very poor conductor of electricity, in fact, it is highly resistant to electrical impulses. It's the other stuff in the water that makes it a good conductor of electricity, and the more stuff, the better conductor of electricity water is. The primary inorganic ions that makeup TDS is Calcium Ca++, Magnesium Mg++, Sodium Na+, Iron Fe++, Manganese Mn++, Bicarbonate HCO3-, Chloride Cl-, Sulfate SO4--, Nitrate NO3-, Carbonate CO3--. Reverse Osmosis is the best way to eliminate these wide varieties of total dissolved solids. VOLATILE ORGANICS Algae, Diatoms, Fungus, Molds, Bacteria, Viruses, 30-micron worms, Protozoa, Nematodes, need we say more, nasty stuff. Disinfection methods include distillation, Reverse Osmosis, UV Light, Chemical disinfectants.
CHLORIDE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 250 mg/L A natural forming mineral in seawater and sedimentary rock. The main problems with chlorides have to do with taste, corrosion to pipes, and chlorides are well known for being toxic to plants. The best way to get rid of chlorides is through Reverse Osmosis or distillation.
FOAMING AGENTS - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.5 mg/L Detergents, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides. At small levels, mainly has a negative aesthetic effect. Carbon filtration or distillation.
MANGANESE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.05 mg/L Naturally occurring metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, industrial contaminant. Taste is affected. Staining, scaling, and discoloration of water. Water Softening. PH - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: <6.5, >8.5 Carbonates, bicarbonates, carbon dioxide, industrial contaminants. If highly acidic (less than 6.5) it causes corrosion to pipes. If highly basic (greater than 8.5) it causes staining. Calcite Feeder for low pH, Dealkalyzer for high pH. Call Toll Free 877-262-5191, International 316-262-5191 for Dealkalyzer sizing. Return to top.
SILVER - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.1 mg/L Natural mineral deposits, battery manufacturing, plating, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Causes Argyria - discoloration of the skin. Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.
SULFATE - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 250 mg/L Naturally occurring, gypsum, mine, and industrial wastes. Gives off a bad taste and has laxative effects. Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation. ZINC - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 5 mg/L Corrosion of plumbing materials, industrial contamination. Gives off a foul taste. Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.
TURBIDITY - EPA Maximum Contaminant level: 0.5 - 1.0 NTU Turbidity is caused by erosion runoff and discharges. It mainly has to do with measuring the light shining through a container holding water in question. The less the light, the more the turbidity, the more the light, the less the turbidity. Primarily, turbidity interferes with UV light or Chlorine disinfection. For this reason, it needs to be removed. Turbidity can be removed by filtration, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.
COPPER EPA Maximum Contaminant Level: 1.3 mg/L Caused by corrosion of interior household and building pipes. Causes stomach and intestinal distress. Wilson's disease. Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.