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Help with smelly well water

cmonkey
7 years ago
last modified: 7 years ago

Just a little background.

We bought a house 3 years ago with a horrid well, located in a pit in the driveway. Lots of iron staining and iron bacteria/coliform bacteria. We lived with it for a while but then decided to do something about it so we called our local Culligan dealer.

They came out and tested the water and confirmed what we already knew....we had crappy water. I seem to remember only one stat, that being the hardness at about 40 GPG. I don't remember anything else, this was a few years ago. We had an IronSoft system put in, configured at 40 GPG and everything seemed to get better. The water tasted fine, the tub wasn't staining anymore (so we thought), etc...

Flash forward about 2 years and we started getting more iron stains on the tub, in the washer etc... I thought, alright, maybe the well is getting worse, I will up the frequency of the flushes to once per week. That alleviated it for while, but the problem came back. On top of that, the water started to smell musty toward the end of the week, right before it flushed.

We decided to have a new well dug at that point, since the old well was so bad and in a bad location anyway and it seemed like the softener just couldn't keep up. This was back in September 2014. Everything was fine with the new well for about 2 months, no staining, no smell. After 2 months we started getting a strong sulfur odor out of the un-treated water. Alright, no big deal that is common in wells. The softened water was still great.

Wait a couple more months (about 2-3 months ago) and now the softened water is super smelly after just 2-3 days after flushing.

I was thinking that we might have a sulfur bacteria problems, colonizing the softener so I decided to run bleach through the system. It has a self-chlorinating feature, so I figured bleach would be fine. However, this didn't work, smelly water after 5 days or so after bleaching.

We do not, however, have anymore staining problems. Over 6 months now and no staining.


Also, they shock chlorinated the well when it was dug. Once we got smell coming from un-treated, I shock chlorinated it about 3 times over the course of a week. This didn't help the problem so the bacteria is either in the aquifer or there is just sulfate in the water.



I have spent the better part of 2 months pondering/researching the problem and can think of only 2 things.

1. Bacteria are colonizing the softener so quickly that the smell comes back after just a few days.

2. The media in the softener is absolutely fried and is just not working anymore and after 3-5 days is completely filled up and cannot remove anything (smell, minerals, etc...)

I am very hesitant to spend any more money until I get some opinions, as we already spent 4K on the softener system and 20K on the new well. Culligan charges 100 bucks just to drive out and take a look so I have not had them out yet. I want more information first.

At first I was leaning toward bacteria, but can they really colonize so quickly?

Now, I have been leaning more toward the media being fried due to the old well being so bad. On top of this, it dawned on me that the softened water tastes exactly like the straight up well water, so I checked if the bypass valve was on. It wasn't.

If the media in the softener is fried, I can probably get Culligan to replace it. The media has a 10 year warranty on it.

Would love any thoughts on which problem is more likely, 1 or 2? Or maybe there is something I haven't thought of ?

Comments (50)

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    What is the analysis of the water from the new well, prior to treatment?

    It could be that the media was so fouled by the original well water that the chlorine/bleach treatments are unable to kill off all the bacteria. If iron has reverted to its ferric form and is coating the media it could effectively prevent chlorine from reaching the bacteria to kill it. You new well could also be adding to the problem. Without analysis there is no way to know for certain.

    Since it is their equipment, Culligan ought to take care of the problem. If you escalate up the ladder, you should be able to get them out without charge. You spent a lot of money for equipment that didn't solve the problem.


  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for the response. I do not have any analysis to share. I finally found a lab that can give very detailed results so am ordering a kit later today. Unfortunately, total cost is about 150 bucks, but its very detailed (dozens of parameters). Culligan only uses basic water strip tests (the kind you can buy) and I really want bacterial counts as well.

    What is ferric iron? From your response, I take it that it can ruin a softener?

    It also dawned on me I can just get a few hardness test kits and test the water pre-softener, post-softener and post-cleansing post-softener to get a feeling for if it is actually reducing hardness. If it's not, then its probably fried and I can use that as ammo for getting Culligan to replace it.

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  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Your Culligan rep used TEST STRIPS to test your water? That's just pathetic, but a rant for another day.

    Iron in well water will be either ferrous (dissolved, clear-water) or ferric (particulate). Ferrous iron will slowly revert to ferric when exposed to oxygen. The problem with ferric [edited] iron is that it is "sticky" and difficult to remove if it sits very long.

    I suggest a Hach 5-B test kit for any homeowner with a softener.

    The system you have may also not be the appropriate system for your water if you have hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell). If that is the case, the softening/iron removal combo you've got won't work. You would need separate iron removal. The analysis is the first step regardless. Make sure you get, at minimum: iron, manganese, hardness, sulfates, H2S, bacteria (coliform, IRB,SRB), TDS, pH. Make sure you ask the lab how to to take the sample to ensure you get a representative sample of your water. Fill the sample container to the top - no air space.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Well, I guess that's what to expect from a free water test ;)

    I'm confused, in your first post you said 'ferric' might be sticking, in the second you said 'ferrous'.

    Either way, I need to have a test done. I am considering either the 'Well-Check' or 'Watercheck' tests here, but maybe these are overkill?

    http://www.ntllabs.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=NTL&Category_Code=Well+Water


  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sorry, was typing fast - ferric is correct. I'll edit the post above to correct it.

    It's a little difficult to tell if either of those test packages will work since they don't list everything for which they test. A lab local to your area would be better, particularly for the H2S and bacteria tests. Shipping time can drastically change those results.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Unfortunately there are no labs that do testing locally. I called a couple labs and they were not able to do sulfur/iron bacteria counts, which is really what I want.

    How long of shipping time would change results? They recommend overnighting it to the lab, which is what I'm planning.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Find out when packages leave from your location and take the sample as late as you can. Ensure it is sealed immediately after sampling.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So I bought some simple water test strips on the way home yesterday and did some testing. It is a bit rough to determine, but gives a small picture as to what might be going on.

    Raw Water
    Hardness - 40-58 GPG
    Dissolved Iron - .01-.03 PPM

    Softened Water (one week after last flush)

    Hardness - 10-15 GPG

    Dissolved Iron - 0 PPM

    Softened Water (this morning after flushing overnight)

    Hardness - 0-2 GPG

    Dissolved Iron - 0 PPM

    Both the wife and I looked at the results and agreed on the coloring. I am not sure if this is to be expected, but I would think not?

    What sort of hardness should a softener output and shouldn't it last a lot longer than a week?

    What does this suggest?

    I am going to test the water one last time, once it starts smelling again, and see what hardness level I get.


    Also for the raw water, is that a high level of dissolved iron? It rates just under midway on the scale on the test, but not sure if that means anything.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Let's start with some basics.

    What is the model number of your system? It should be ISP(1 or 2)-####. Last four numbers should be 1044, 1054 or 1354. If you can't find a model number, measure the height and circumference of the media tank.

    Test strips are notoriously inaccurate, but it at least appears that you are going way too long between regens on your system. Enter the programming mode on your system and write down all of the settings so can see where you are right now. To enter programming mode, set the time to 12:01, then hold both the Up and Down buttons for five seconds. The program light should illuminate. Then you can step through the different settings by hitting the Extra Cycle button. Don't make any changes at this time - just write down the settings.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Model is ISP2-1054ME

    GPG - 10 (Not sure why this was so low??)
    Override - 7 Days
    Time 1:00 AM

    No other settings.


  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Did you set the time to 12:01 PM first? You should have the following settings:

    1. valve model
    2. regenerant flow
    3. system type
    4. display format
    5. system capacity
    6. reserve capacioty factor
    7. water hardness
    8. regen time
    9. regen day override
    10. regen cycle step #1
    11. regen cycle step #2
    12. regen cycle step #3
    13. regen cycle step #4
    14. regen cycle step #5
    15. chlorine generator start time
    16. chlorine generator end time
    17. chem pump aux relay
    18. flow meter size
    19. line frequency
  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Whoops, I set it to 12:01 AM!

    I found the following.

    1. Sys Type 4
    MTR DLY FIX RSV

    2. Valve Type - 2510/2850
    3. Regenerant Flow - Down Flow
    4. Display Format - US Gallons
    5. Unit Capacity - 32,000 Grains
    6. Water Hardness - 10 GPG
    7. Capacity Safety Factor - 35%
    8. Regen Day Override - 7 Days
    9. Cycle Step 1 - 00:12:00 Backwash

    1. Cycle Step 2 - 01:30:00 Brine & Slow Rinse
    2. Cycle Step 3 - 00:04:00 Rapid Rinse
    3. Cycle Step 4 - 00:10:00 Brine Tank Fill
    4. Aux Relay - Enabled
    5. Aux Replay Output
      a. Start 1 - 00:12:00
      b. End 1 - 00:32:00
      c. Start 2 - 00:32:00
      d. End 2 - 00:32:00
    6. Chemical Pump - Disabled
    7. Flow Meter - .75 turbine

      Thank you for all of your help so far.


  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    I would still get Culligan out to look at it, AND get your analysis done.

    I suspect your hardness and iron is inaccurate since you used test strips, BUT you likely have enough iron to worry about or Culligan would likely have installed a standard softener instead of the IronSoft.

    For right now, do the following to get by for the short term:

    1. Set hardness at 20 - this is pretty much a guess but let's start there given how poorly the system is performing presently.
    2. Set the day override to 5 to try to mitigate iron fouling.
    3. Start using rust remover or iron fighter salt for regen. It contains some citric acid which will help remove built-up iron on your media.

    Then we just wait for the analysis and whatever Culligan has to say and move on from there.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sounds good, I have the test kits on the way.

    I am curious about the cycle regen times. Can these be adjusted as well in order to optimize performance? My thought is that the Brine and Slow Rinse could be adjust to go a little longer, along with the Chlorine Generator to remove more bacteria, if its not getting it all out.



    I am also curious about the GPG setting. The obvious change is that the number of gallons between regens is adjust down for a higher GPG setting. Are there any other changes, like salt concentration?

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Your current settings provide a little over 8 lb salt/cubic ft of media, which is fine. Increasing the slow rinse time is not necessary.

    For now, I've suggested changes to improve iron/hardness removal. Let it run with the changes for a week and see where you're at. Hopefully you can get Culligan out within that time. I haven't been able to find any specs on the chlorine generator - you will need to ask Culligan how long it can reasonably run without damaging the media or equipment.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    How did you determine 8 lb salt/cubic foot of media?


  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    From the spec sheet for your unit.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I found this - http://ironsoftplus.com/ISP_specs.html

    Under ISP2-1054 column I see in the second row down under ' Capacity: (Grains/Lbs NaCl)' Medium' - 32,000 @ 12.4

    Since my capacity setting is 32,000, this suggests salt usage is 12.4 lbs?

    I wonder what the effect of adjusting the capacity would be.


    Edit : I adjusted the capacity down to 22,000 grains and the 'gallons left until regen' went from nearly 500 to just under 286, which aligns with about how many gallons we go before it starts stinking. According to that spec sheet, it should also lessen salt usage as well. I will see what this does and report back.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Brine time is set at 10 minutes, which is 5 gallons, which is 15 lb of salt, which is 8 lb/cu ft.

    Changing the capacity setting is the WRONG way to go about it. That does not allow the softener to control itself properly. Capacity is determined by salt dose. Gallons are determined by hardness.

    You can change things willy-nilly, or you can do it correctly, but it's your equipment.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I adjusted it back. I suppose I should try to understand more about what each setting means.

    Going from 5 gallons to 15 lbs of salt suggests 3 lbs of salt per gallon, where does that number come from? I found the rest of your calculation on the spec sheet, so I understand that.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Solubility of salt in water.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ah!

    On that specs sheet, I am wondering if capacity 32,000 @ 12.4 lbs of salt means that it takes 12.4 lbs of salt/cubic foot to cleanse 32,000 grains?


    Sorry for all the questions, I am the type of person that over-analyzes everything.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sort of. In any ion exchange, you get less than perfect regeneration. To obtain maximum capacity an obscene amount of salt is required. As you reduce the salt dosage during regeneration, a smaller portion of the ion exchange sites on the media are regenerated, lowering the capacity. Most ion exchange resin suppliers provide a graph of salt lb/cu ft vs capacity/cu ft. Culligan provides us with three data points.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Looking at the specs a little closer, it looks like 12.4 lbs of salt total, not 12.4 lbs/cubic foot.

    I was thinking I might be under-generating at 8 lbs/cubic foot on a setting of 32,000 capacity, but I guess not since I am configured for 15 lbs total.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well I got the Hach 5B in the mail a few days ago and finally got around to testing.

    Raw Water - 17-18 GPG
    Soft Water (after about 50 gallon use) - 0 GPG
    Soft Water (after about 200 gallon use) - 1 GPG

    Soft Water (after about 400 gallon use) - 1-2 GPG


    We started getting smelly water at about the 100 gallon mark last time. The water is slightly smelly currently at around 400 gallons of use.

  • zver11
    7 years ago

    Using a water softener to remove iron when is the real problem is a waste of money. They can get rid of some of the iron, but it continues to foul the bed and waste salt. A chlorine injector followed by a particle filter will remove iron. Alternatively and simpler, get an iron filter which will absolutely remove iron and nor waste massive amounts of salt. Water conditioners are useful for removing hardness from calcium carbonate and little else. Make sure water is tested for manganese, sulfur and PH first since these affect system needed.


  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm not sure if the bed is fouled to the point of out-putting hard water, based on my testing. A rise of 1-2 GPG doesn't seem like a lot.

    My suspicion is that, as aliceinwonderland_id said, bacteria has somehow colonized the resin and is just impossible to get out at this point. I have not yet gotten to ordering the independent lab test kit but will post results when I do.

    I discovered last night that you can replace the resin in the tank for relatively cheap, and it doesn't look too bad doing it yourself. I am pretty handy. So that lifted my spirits a little. I have a Culligan tech coming today and will report back what he says.

    I have looked around at UV filters, but the ones I have found require much softer water as input to the filter.

    Does anyone know of a way I could eliminate bacteria pre-softener?

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    A rise of 1-2 gpg after such low water use may, indeed, indicate that your softener is fouled, whether by bacterial colonization or by iron is yet to be determined - either/both are a real possibility here. What we don't have, as of yet, is a good iron analysis. I suspect it is much higher than your test strips (which are notoriously inaccurate for anything other than pH) indicated.

    When the Culligan tech comes out, insist that s/he take a sample of the media - that as the only way to be certain about fouling. Also insist on a good iron test. Iron makes a HUGE difference.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    zver - Perhaps you missed the 40 gpg hardness?

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I suspect Culligan just threw a wild large number out there without really testing, since my hardness is now about 18. I don't remember if it was strips or what, but I never received any paperwork from them regarding water quality. Stupid on my part, but we had just bought the house (first time homeowner) and were just looking for a solution.

    I have 3 tests on the way from National Testing Laboritories, the Well Check, the Sulfate-Reducing bacteria test and the Dual Iron test (for total and dissolved). Should be here this week.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Culligan tech has come and gone.

    He took the controller head off the softener and took a look at the resin level and the water in the tank. It looked very clean, no bacterial build up and no algae build up ( I didn't know you could get that ) at all and the level of the resin was fine. He claimed there was no way to tell if the media was fouled, so did not take a sample.

    He did say that there is a sub-resin layer in our softener called 'KDF' which is for removing sulfur odor and that anything over 2 PPM sulfur would be too much for this 'KDF' to handle. However, coupled with the increase in hardness, he suspected either fouled media or the brine cycle was not long enough. Does anyone know what this KDF is?

    He remarked that the brine tank was not very full. There was probably less than a foot of water in the bottom of it and it was more than a foot away from the shut-off float. This is something I noticed as well a while back, but forgot about. If the brine tank empties half way through the slow/brine rinse, it would just be flushing hard water over the resin bed, correct?

    So he upped the brine fill time from 10 min to 14 min and said to empty the entire salt tank and brine tank and give it a good clean. Make sure it fills up to the float and uses all the water in the brine tank. If that doesn't fix the problem they can re-bed the softener for just over $300. I have 30 days to let them know so to avoid another 99 dollar service charge.

    He is also sending out a salesperson to test the level of sulfur in the water (no charge). I told him I'm having a couple of comprehensive tests done, but he claims the level will probably drop substantially, even overnighting it.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Fouling: Absolutely, positively, without question, it is possible to tell if media is fouled, but only if a sample is taken. Any tech worth his/her salt knows that.

    KDF: If there is a layer of KDF at the bottom of your softener, that is not the correct way to use it. KDF at the bottom of the softener allows everything that the KDF would remove to foul up your resin first. KDF is properly used either in its own tank or as a cartridge at the inlet of the softener. When it is use, the DLFC (drain line flow control) must be increased to ensure proper backwash of the KDF. 5 gpm is necessary. The KDF cartridge/layer MUST BE REPLACED every three years, so if it is actually there it is at the end of its life. The reason I say, "if it is actually there," is because Culligan IronSoft Plus doesn't generally include any KDF and there is no mention of KDF in the spec sheets.

    Brine tank: The water level might be just fine - I don't know your tank diameter so can't say for certain. If you do decide to clean out the tank, once you are done, pour five gallons of water in it, then add salt enough salt so that the salt is evenly distributed and up to the water level. Mark that level on the outside of the tank so you will know for future reference where it should be. If there really is a problem with brine level, the tech should have determined the cause of the problem rather than just increasing brine fill time.

    When the Culligan salesperson comes out, ask for a spec sheet on your system. Ask about the KDF.

    Your situation is a perfect example of why I have no use for Culligan. They don't have a bad line of products, but they consistently fail to train their people.


  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I agree, the two people we have had out here don't really seem to know what they are doing. He mainly just made sure it was cycling well. This is why I am attempting to learn about the system, so I can learn to service it myself, as I am fairly handy and get immense satisfaction through fixing stuff. I watched him take the system off the piping and so now I know how to do it.

    I am not sure if the KDF is at the bottom or not, he just mentioned it was "down there". I will make sure to ask the salesperson.

    EDIT: I did just find this after googling 'iron soft plus kdf' - http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ironsoftplus.com%2FISP%2520KDF%2520TECH%2520TIP.doc&ei=C4EAVd6MBtCqyASnmoCoDw&usg=AFQjCNEHyRojY7Juq3NQRgJ046TgucJF7A&sig2=bfwQyLL3SgYJ3NN_TizoYA&bvm=bv.87611401,d.aWw&cad=rja


    Just some observations from watching it cycle a little while ago - it took exactly 40 minutes to use up the brine tank water at which point I heard clicking and it seemed the sound of the water changed to sound higher in pressure. It had 50 minutes of brine time left.

    I know it was out of brine water because I stuck a dowel down the brine canister and got 2 inches of wet wood. It had dropped from a level of 22 inches brine water to 2 inches in 40 minutes. Salt level was just above the water level, and even.

    At that point I am assuming it would slow rinse with 50 minutes of hard water. Is this expected behavior?

    I am also wondering about resin. Would general purpose resin work in an IronSoft system or do you actually need their special Crystal-whatever its called?

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Yes - the brine draw/slow rinse you are seeing is expected behavior.

    KDF: That tech tip is contrary to media manufacturer specifications.

    Resin: standard resin would work if the chlorine generator was disabled. Let's wait for the analysis and see where you are.

  • waterguytexas
    7 years ago

    I think it may have been missed in the beginning you stated that
    you added chlorine to the softener. Chlorine destroys resin. If you
    added a large amount the yes you fouled out the resin.

    I
    agree that the KDF55 (most likely) is useless if added to the bottom.

    Not
    sure if you have gotten you bacteria test back yet. If you have bacteria
    issue which I doubt, don't see that much. Then there are several options
    out there of UV systems that have pretreatment attached. Pura make a good
    unit and have been around for years.

    I
    am curious were your iron comes back at. You stated that you have a test
    kit. To tell the difference between furious (dissolved) and ferric
    (suspended) iron is to run the test and then filter the water with a coffee
    filter. Coffee filters are around 10 microns and will capture the ferric
    iron. Run again and that will be the ferrous. A water softener will
    filter out ferrous iron. Hardness and iron are both cations and the resin
    will capture both. When using a softener to capture the furious iron you
    need to use the calculation of 15 grains per every ppm of iron. So if you
    have 18 grains of hardness and 3ppm of iron your softener should be set for 63
    grains. Hopefully your tank is at least 12X52 if not that may be why you
    are getting slippage. If you have a pretreatment filter in front of the
    filter to filter the ferric iron and use the softener to remove the ferrous
    will be cheaper today to treat iron. Culligan will charge over 2K+ for an
    iron removal system.

    As
    for the water in your brine tank I think I missed the tank size above. If
    it is a 10X54 tank you have 1.5cf of resin. I think Culligan has you feed
    9lbs per CF of resin. 1 gallon of water will dissolve 3 lbs of salt.
    You need 4.5 gallons of water to get 13.5 lbs of salt. You should
    have a .5GPM BLFC so the refill time should be 9-10 minutes.

    I
    have been in the industry for 18 years and am on the best at explaining myself
    in the best way. If you have any specific questions please let me know.

  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    I have a limestone filter followed by a cartridge filter followed by a softener. This does a pretty good job of neutralizing the acidity of my water and removing the iron. Despite this, my water still had a strong sulfur smell. So I had another cartridge filter installed with a carbon filter. This solved the smell problem as long as I change the carbon filter every 3 months or so.

    Is this a good solution, or do you think I might be covering up another problem?

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    @greasetrap

    I am considering putting in a carbon filter post-softener and possibly an aeration tank if the carbon doesn't fix it. I also suspect that I have bacteria and would be putting in a UV filter post softener as well. I am sending in my test kits this week so hopefully will know more next week.


  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    cmonkey, you bring up a good point about aeration. What type of pressure tank do you have? With my old well, I had a 120 gal. cast iron pressure tank, which had a layer of air floating at the top. Every couple of months the tank became waterlogged and I would have to pump more air into it. It turns out this was a good thing though, as all that air escaping into the water was converting the ferrous iron into ferric iron, which was easily filtered out.

    I had a constant pressure system put in when my new well was drilled, and this just has a very small tank with a balloon on top instead of the layer of air. While this system had great pressure, the water became horribly metallic. The new raw water wasn't that different from the old, but the lack of air in the new system meant that the ferrous iron wasn't getting filtered out. My new system: limestone filter (neutralizes acidity, but it also makes the water harder which is necessary to get the softener to filter out the ferrous iron) followed by a cartridge filter (to get any ferric iron not caught by the limestone filter) followed by the softener (which re-softens the water and filters out the ferrous iron) works pretty well, but there was the odor issue. I've read online that a softener will make any odor problems worse. I don't know why this is, but the carbon filter seems to do the trick for me. I probably should get a test done to rule out any problems with bacteria.

    If you do have bacteria, why don't you just have a chlorinator installed? That would oxidize all of the ferrous iron as well and make it easy to filter out all of the iron in a cartridge filter. I was thinking of that after I had my new well drilled (particularly as my water is naturally soft), but my filter guy said it would constantly be mixing up new batches of chlorine and testing the water to make sure I was putting the proper amount of chlorine in.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The Culligan sales rep came out and tested well water for sulfur and iron using a liquid drop test.

    1.25 ppm sulfur
    .5 ppm iron

    He claims Culligan has a system with a "special formula" that would eliminate all odor problems. Cost is 80 bucks a month to rent, 1900 to purchase. The system would need to be rebedded every 4-5 years at a cost of 400 bucks. He also said the level of sulfur in our water is "very high", as my wife put it.

    He also claimed a carbon filter would need new material every 4-5 days at our level of sulfur. I'm not sure how true this is, especially considering I would put it in post-softener.

    Would love other opinions here. I am definitely not shelling out 1900 for another Culligan system.

    Also keep in mind, I was not present during the test, only my wife was, so I'm sure he was trying to sell something to an unsuspecting housewife. ;)

    I am not going to be able to get the other test kits mailed this week as things have gotten busy for me at work. Looking for mid to late next week shipping.

    One other note - the first Culligan tech to come out last week asked if I had removed the anode/sacrificial rod from my new water heater. I said no and he claimed I should since I have a softener and that it can cause hot water to stink. I read about it in the manual and the rod is there to preserve the life of the water heater tank and needs to be replaced every 6 months to a year.

    Conflicting information here. What the is recommended action in your experience?

  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    Are there other water companies in the area besides Culligan? I would look for some competing quotes and get a test done by an independent lab. I found the following from aquapurefilters.com:

    Odor

    Source of Odor

    Taste and odor problems of many different types can be encountered in drinking water. Troublesome compounds may result from biological growth or industrial activities. The tastes and odors may be, produced in the water supply, in the water treatment plant from reactions with treatment chemicals, in the distribution system, and/or in the plumbing of consumers. Tastes and odors can be caused by mineral contaminants in the water, such as the salty taste of water when chlorides are 500 mg/i or above, or the rotten egg odor caused by hydrogen sulfide. Odor in the drinking water is usually caused by blue-green algae. Moderate concentrations of algae in the water can cause it to have a grassy, rnusty or spicy odor. Large quantities can cause the water to have a rotten , septic, fishy or medicinal odor. Decaying vegetation is probably the most common cause for taste and odor in surface water supplies. In treated water supplies chlorine can react with organics and cause odor problems. The US EPA lists odor in the Secondary Drinking Water Standards. The contaminant effects are strictly aesthetic and a suggested Threshold Odor Number (TON) of 3 is recommended.

    Treatment of Odor

    Odor can be removed by oxidation-reduction or by activated carbon adsorption. Aeration can be utilized if the contaminant is in the form of a gas, such as H2S (hydrogen sulfide). Chlorine is the most common oxidant used in water treatment, but is only partially effective on taste and odor. Potassium permanganate and oxygen are also only partially effective. Chloramines are not at all effective for the treatment of taste and odor. The most effective oxidizers for treating taste and odor are chlorine dioxide and ozone. Activated carbon has an excellent history of success in treating taste and odor problems. The life of the carbon depends on the presence of organics competing for sites and the concentration of the odor-causing compound.


    Hydrogen Sulfide

    Source of Hydrogen Sulfide

    Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is a gas which imparts its "rotten egg" odor to water supplies. Such waters are distasteful for drinking purposes and processes in practically all industries. Most sulfur waters contain from 1 to 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide can interfere with readings obtained from water samples. It turns hardness and pH tests gray, and makes iron tests inaccurate. Chlorine bleach should be added to eliminate the H2S odor; then the hardness, pH and iron tests can be done. Hydrogen sulfide can not be tested in a lab, it must be done in the field. Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive to plumbing fixtures even at low concentrations. H2S fumes will blacken or darken painted surfaces, giving them a "smoked" appearance.

    Treatment of Hydrogen Sulfide

    H2S requires chlorine to be fed in sufficient quantities to eliminate it, while leaving a residual in the water (3 ppm of chlorine is required for each ppm of hydrogen sulfide). Activated carbon filtration may then be installed to remove the excess chlorine.


    I don't know what causes my water to smell, but my carbon filter seems to last 3-4 months before the water starts to smell again. I personally don't see any downside to installing a carbon filter. It might or might not solve the problem, but it won't hurt and, if nothing else, will probably make your water taste a bit better. You'll also need one if you ultimately need to add a chlorinator. Just make sure you get one big enough for the whole house - mine handles 10 gpm and there are times when I would like more water flow.



  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am not planning to purchase any systems from any "popular" companies like Culligan or Kinetico. I would much prefer to install my own system and manage it, particularly due to the purchasing of a 4K dollar system from Culligan that only lasted 2-3 years. They clearly don't care about customer satisfaction, its more of a "lets just throw this large expensive system at it and we'll see what happens" type of mentality. This latest visit confirms that.

    I have been reading about levels of H2S gas in drinking water and 1.25 ppm is not "very high" as the Culligan rep claims. I look at .edu sites mainly and they all say that carbon filters can handle everything up to .3 to .5 ppm. An aeration tank can handle up to 2 ppm. Greensand filters can go up to like 6-10 ppm (I'm guessing this is what he wants to sell me). Based on current knowledge, an aeration system combined with a post-softener carbon filter would be a good place to start.

    I am going to wait for the large tests to come back before making any decisions but I am strongly leaning toward something like this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghEw6CHT7rc

    I could install something like that for much cheaper and manage it myself.

  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    I didn't know that greensand would help with H2S. It would certainly reduce your iron content as well, and help prolong the life of your softener. If you go with an aeration tank, I would install it before the softener and put a sediment filter after it. The air would convert all of your ferrous iron to ferric, and the filter would get most of that out before it went into the softener.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    greasetrap - If you are going to cut and paste the work of others, provide a citation or link, please. That way folks can be assured of the full context and you won't be infringing on copyright.

    Greensand, birm, Filox, Pyrolox, Terminox are different forms of oxidizing filtration media and are all viable options for removal of iron and H2S in your water. Which one is appropriate depends on your water and the amount of flow you can achieve from your well. They required relatively high flow rates for backwash.

    Aeration or chlorine injection are also good options. They require a little more expertise on the part of you water treatment pro.

    With any of these options, treatment equipment must be in the correct order, and each have their pros and cons:

    1. Aeration or chlorination: oxidizing unit --> holding tank --> media filter (often GAC) --> softener [relatively easy, particularly aeration, but holding tank blowdown can become problematic]
    2. Oxidizing filtration: Aeration (possibly) --> Ox/filt unit --> softener. [very easy to operate and maintain but backwash flow rate is critical and some residential well systems may not be capable of providing adequate flow]
    3. Carbon for H2S: Catalytic carbon (NOT GAC) --> softener [media units tend to be quite large as 3-5 minutes contact time is needed]



  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Anode rod: The anode rod in your water heater can cause your hot water to smell bad/worse than your cold water. If you have a magnesium rod it can react with dissolved sulfate to form H2S, which smells like rotten eggs and can be detected by the human nose at part per billion levels. Simply removing your anode rod, while it will mitigate/eliminate the problem, is a bad idea. It can, however, be replaced with an anode rode made of aluminum or zinc. If you keep your water heater at or above 150 °F, aluminum is your only choice.

    If your cold water also smells of H2S, replacing the anode in your water heater will not help.

  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    Aliceinwonderland, if you look at my post again, you'll see that I did provide a citation (aquapurefilters.com). It's the place where I buy my sediment & carbon filter cartridges.

  • AliceHasLeftTheBuilding
    7 years ago

    Sorry, I missed that part. I should have my coffee before reading.

  • loonlakelaborcamp
    7 years ago

    Just my own experience, and the experience of my plumber cousin. We had country well water at our lake place, and every year, we flushed well with chlorine in spring when we turned on well. Come July, we would get rotten egg smelling water. We would then chlorinate well again and it would be OK till Fall when we shut off well.

    Plumber cousin said, get rid of the anode rod. In this area, if you live in town (treated water) you leave the anode rod in. If you have your own well, they take them out or replace them with the special type. We chose to replace iffy old water heater with a marathon heater (insulated plastic). Since we no longer have a magnesium rod, no rotten egg gas for 5 years - and no need to chlorinate.

    Testing the water now - everything is fine. Hard, but fine. We soften once a week.

  • larry_a_williams
    7 years ago

    In response to an earlier question that you asked about water testing, I live in North Carolina, and the county I am in has a water testing lab that can test for all types of things in your water (except as was previously mentioned Hydrogen Sulfide gas). The cost here was $50 for a fairly comprehensive tests of metals, hardness, ph, ... and $20 for bacteria tests. I actually had two tests done, one at the well head and another after treatment to see how well the treatment was working.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well I finally got the test done and have the results back.

    Results -

    All as mg/L unless otherwise noted.

    Barium - 0.77
    Calcium - 56
    Copper - .007
    Iron - .151
    Dissolved Iron - Not Detected
    Magnesium - 25.79
    Potassium - 5.4
    Silica - 10.4
    Sodium - 55
    Zinc - .044

    Alkalinity (Total as CaC03) - 410

    Hardness 250 (14.5 GPG)

    pH - 7.6

    Total Dissolved Solids - 400

    Turbidity - 0.3

    Sulfate Reducing Bacteria - 18,000 cfu/mL

    The following were NOT detected.

    Aluminum

    Arsenic

    Cadmium

    Lead

    Manganese

    Mercury

    Nickel

    Selenium

    Silver

    Chloride

    Fluoride

    Nitrate as N

    Nitrate as N

    Ortho Phosphate

    Sulfate

    The first obvious question I have is that how can we have Sulfate Reducing Bacteria, yet no Sulfate detected? This suggests either they are not causing the water to smell, or the Sulfate test was not accurate.

  • cmonkey
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    aliceinwonderand_id,

    Hoping you are still around! Any comments you have are greatly appreciated.


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