Sometimes dissolved ferrous iron in the water is transformed into a separate problem before it gets to the tap.
Water giving off the musty smell more commonly associated with rotten vegetation may be contaminated with iron bacteria. Iron bacteria feed on the dissolved ferrous iron in water in a process known as oxidation, creating an insoluble ferric oxide which appears as a rusty, brown slime.
Iron bacteria are a natural part of the environment and are not known to cause illness,
but the bacteria are still capable of causing some frustrating and costly problems for homeowners. The dramatic effects of iron bacteria are seen in surface waters as brown slimy masses on stream bottoms and lakeshores or as an oily sheen upon the water. More serious problems occur when bacteria collect in well systems, where the slime builds up on well screens and pipes, decreasing their efficiency and eventually requiring expensive replacements. Additionally, a smell and taste resembling fuel oil or cucumbers emanating from the bacteria makes drinking the water unpleasant or even unbearable.
There are several effective treatments for iron bacteria, the best of which is prevention. For well drillers, prevention means disinfecting everything that goes into the ground with a strong (250 ppm) chlorine solution. Tools, pumps, pipe, gravel pack material, and even the water used in drilling should be disinfected. Use of a tank that circulates chlorinated water instead of digging a mud pit will help avoid contamination from soil. When the well is completed, it should be purged, shock chlorinated (using 1000 ppm solution), and then pumped.
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Owners of new wells in places where iron bacteria have been a problem must especially alert for signs of their occurrence. If the well driller and pump installer are scrupulous in keeping the new well "clean," iron bacteria even in such areas can be avoided.
Once you have an iron bacteria problem, there are effective solutions which can purify your water, including a Water Doctors filtration system designed to eliminate iron, iron bacteria, and hydrogen sulfide, arsenic, and other contaminants. The ferric oxide produced by iron bacteria can often be trapped in the filter bed by a specialized greensand resin and washed away during regeneration. It’s important to identify the underlying cause of any suspicious odors or tastes in your water with a water quality analysis before attempting to correct the problems.