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Treating Iron Bacteria

Iron bacteria are living organisms that live and grow in soil, surface water, and well water. Since iron is a natural food source, they thrive and quickly reproduce in iron-bearing waters to form thousands of gelatinous colonies. They can also create ideal conditions where other organisms like sulfur bacteria can grow.

Many people think that this kind of bacteria can be filtered out but this is rarely the case. Iron bacteria are much different than normal ferric or ferrous iron found in well water. Iron bacteria usually forms when it is exposed to the air, and in certain light conditions.

This bacterial type of iron actually blooms when exposed to the air. Treating Iron Bacteria usually requires using a chlorine or hydrogen peroxide injection system. This solution is injected into the water supply and then stored in a separate holding tank to allow the solution to thoroughly mix with the untreated water killing the bacteria. Installation of a small 15-gallon solution injection system that injects small amounts of chlorine bleach or peroxide into the water supply as needed. This is much like municipal water which is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria.

Iron Bacteria can cling to toilet tank parts and sometimes build up in the corners of the tank. It will also sometimes coat the toilet bowl with a brown silt and stain tubs and sinks where dripping occurs. It’s much easier to treat ferric and ferrous iron but bacterial iron needs to be eliminated by injection using chlorine or peroxide.

 While I don’t like using chlorine, it is easily removed before it gets to your drinking water by installing a good carbon filter down-line from the solution injector.

Signs of Iron Bacteria:

  • Orange, slimy film in your toilet
  • Clogged sediment filters
  • Clogged pipes
  • Fouled water treatment equipment leading to costly repairs and tank swaps
  • Premature pump failure
  • Poor water pressure
  • Musty, swampy, sewage-like odors
  • Colored water

An easy way to see if you have this type of iron is to lift the tank lid on your toilet and look inside at the components and bottom corners. You will see dark/red sludge if you have this type of iron

This bacteria is not harmful and is normally not a health threat. Although they are not pathogenic, they cause ongoing staining in your laundry, sinks, tubs, fixtures, appliances, and even your dishes.

Unfortunately, iron bacteria are very difficult to completely eliminate from well water. Well chlorination is the best method to keep it under control. Repeated chlorinations may be necessary

The most widely accepted method is to “super- chlorinate” the well or “shock” it with sodium hypochlorite (bleach).  The CT Dept of Public Health recommends semi-annual well chlorination.