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Why & How You Should Be Reducing Iron in Your Well Water

Posted: March 23, 2021 at 7:58 pm / by / comments (0)

Removing the contaminants from your well water is just common sense.

Most of the time, groundwater in the United States and every other country around the world contains some nasty substances which are too numerous to list. Some can be difficult to remove, iron in particular. It certainly doesn’t sound all that scary since iron is such a common element. It isn’t even toxic on concentrations commonly found in water sources, but there are several good reasons to keep it out of your well water supply.

As for the methods you can use to remove iron, it’s a tricky business, but it’s doable. In this article we are going to cover why having iron in your well water is a problem and how you can get rid of it.

Why Is Iron In Well Water A Problem?

As you probably know, a certain amount of iron in your diet is good for your health. However, dietary iron is not the same as metallic iron. Most dietary iron consists as iron compounds containing different forms of iron. Pure iron, however, is not good for you. According to Science Direct, the human body can deal with 0.3 milligrams per liter iron in water. More than this is likely to cause digestive and skin issues.

In small amounts, iron causes minor digestive upset. In large amounts, it can cause two serious conditions (with one leading to the other). As your body adapts to process the extra iron, a condition called “iron overload” can develop. If you happen to have a specific gene, this can turn into full-blown Hemochromatosis. This condition causes you to absorb far too much iron from food. Eventually, it can shut down your heart and liver, which is lethal.

Excess iron in well water is also bad for your skin. It will make your skin cells more vulnerable to bacterial infections. And it makes sense: There are certain forms of bacteria associated with iron. They consume iron and other trace metals, excreting stuff that looks a lot like rust. These iron bacteria can be a huge problem in well water systems. It goes without saying that you’d better want to get rid of them.

Apart from iron affecting our health, there are also some unpleasant secondary effects, such as

  • The buildup of rusty residue in your water pipes. This residue can also invade and shut down your well pump and any lines to which it connects. It takes a long time for that rusty gunk to build up and clog the pipe. But in the meantime, all your drinking water will be in contact with that residue.
  • If iron levels exceed 0.3 ppm, it also causes an unpleasant, metallic taste, making it less desirable for drinking and food preparation. Who wants his or her every meal to taste like a scrapyard?!
  • Water contaminated with iron will also fail to dissolve soap residue, which is a pain. As if that wasn’t enough, iron and rust (its main byproduct) produce stains that are very difficult (sometimes impossible) to remove.

How To Reduce The Iron In Your Well Water

There are several ways for removing iron in well water. All of the devices that are intended for this purpose are classified as “iron filters,” but many of them do a lot more than that.

The iron in your water comes in two forms: Solid and dissolved. The solid iron might be tiny enough to be invisible to the naked eye, but proper filtration can still remove it. You do, of course, need a fine-mesh filter to do it properly. The other form of iron, dissolved iron, proves to be far more difficult to handle.

Iron Filters

Solid iron, no matter how finely dissolved, is usually not a big deal to remove. You just need a filter media that is fine enough to catch those particles. And you should know that iron filters tend to clog more often than other types of water filters. Certain models have extra features that may reduce this problem, but you should still be prepared to do periodic cleaning.

Mechanical filters alone are not enough for complete iron removal, as they have no effect on dissolved iron. The best way to remove dissolved iron is by means of an oxidizer. This is a chemical that reacts with the iron in well water and converts it into a non-soluble form. Then, it can be filtered out like any other solid, through mechanical filtration. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most efficient iron oxidizers, but people also like to use potassium permanganate, manganese oxide (usually in the form of “green sand”), ozone, chlorine, or just air.

Going Whole House

You want to make sure that you use a whole-house iron water filter. Because although your health might be your primary concern, it shouldn’t be your only concern. All that rusty residue is very bad for your pipes and fittings. So, unless you feel like doing a lot of extra plumbing work, place your iron removal device on the first line coming out of the well. That way, the iron is removed before it reaches anything…including your pump!

Because iron is often accompanied by the presence of harmful iron bacteria, any iron reducing filter should come with a sterilization stage. This involves heat, chlorine, or any other antimicrobial measure. What matters most is that you look for a system that can get rid of iron bacteria. Some oxidizing agents (like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide) can also function as sterilizers.

Final Note

It’s interesting when you consider our relationship with iron. It has been used to make some of our greatest marvels, and yet it has also been used to produce most of our deadliest weapons.

Likewise, it plays a vital role in the manufacture of blood proteins like hemoglobin. Without a certain amount of it, we die. However, we can also be killed by an excess of iron in our bodies.

In the end, removing iron in well water is essential. As a final note, we also need to make sure we know what we are drinking. Never forget to test your water for iron after installing a new iron removal device. That way, you can confirm that it’s doing its job right.

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