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Should There Be Iron In Your Well Water?

Water with iron in it coming from faucet

Pumping iron can give you stronger muscles. But what happens when your well system is pumping this metallic-tasting mineral? Learn more about how iron gets into the water source and what you can do about it.

Why Is There Iron In My Well Water?

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. So it’s not surprising when iron enters your well water. Iron can reach your well water through seepage and corrosion. Seepage happens when rainwater and snow melt travel through the ground. If the rocks and soil in your area contain high iron levels, traces of iron will hitch a ride and end up in your well water. In other cases, the iron in your well water could come from corrosion in your well casing or water pipes.

Is The Iron In Well Water Bad for Me?

Generally, iron in your drinking water is not considered hazardous to your health. After all, your body needs a certain iron level to function correctly. (However, you can’t easily absorb iron from water.)

The Environmental Protection Agency considers iron an “aesthetic” or secondary water contaminant. Iron issues are more about taste and appearance than adverse health effects. Another aesthetic concern can come from a specific bacteria that grows in high-iron wells. Some organisms thrive in high-iron environments because they love to eat it as a food source. If you have too much iron in your well, getting rid of this iron bacteria may be challenging, and you may not even know if you have it. It likes to live in the back of your toilet tank. If you ever lift the lid and see a dark, frothy, or slimy substance in your tank water, there’s a good chance you have iron bacteria. It won’t harm you but can lead to plumbing issues if left untreated.

How Much Damage Can Iron Do?

While iron and iron bacteria issues may not be a significant health problem, high-iron well water can cause much damage and expense around your home. Iron can cause rust stains and clogs and even ruin your food.

  • Food: Too much iron can give your water an unpleasant metal taste. Vegetables, rice, and pasta cooked in high-iron water may turn dark and unappealing. Iron can also react with tea and coffee, creating an inky dark appearance and disagreeable taste.

  • Stains and deposits: Iron concentrations as low as 0.3 parts per million (ppm) can leave rusty iron stains on clothing, dinnerware, sinks, and tubs. In many cases, these stains are difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

  • Clogs: Iron deposits can clog sprinklers, pumps, dishwashers, and other appliances. Iron bacteria can also lead to clogs, creating a slimy biofilm that builds up in your pipes and water systems. Either way, these clogs can lead to costly repairs. 

Testing For Iron

If you have red or yellow-colored water, that indicates iron in your well. But not all iron is visible! Sometimes, it is completely dissolved, so your water looks clear when you fill up your glass or bathtub. Water testing can help determine how much iron you have and whether iron bacteria is present. This can help determine your best treatment options.

Forms of iron found in well water include:

  • Insoluble ferric iron: This iron is often visible to the naked eye because it travels as a solid particle. It doesn’t dissolve in water. So if you see red or yellow water from your taps, it’s likely ferric iron.
  • Soluble ferrous iron: This iron dissolves in water so that you won’t see it immediately. But if you leave a glass of water sitting out, you may notice little red particles settling at the bottom of the class. Also, any wet surfaces in your home will start to form rust stains as the water dries. This is from the iron coming in contact with the air and oxidizing to create the telltale brown colors.
  • Organically bound iron: Sometimes iron bonds with tannins in the groundwater. Tannins are decomposed organic materials from tree roots, leaves, and other vegetation. This situation can be complicated and is best addressed on a case-by-case basis regarding the right combination of filters to tackle the issue.

How To Remove Iron From Well Water

Treatment options will vary depending on the type of iron and bacteria present in your well. There are five leading solutions that don’t involve finding a new water source!

  • Water softener: Water softeners only remove small amounts of iron. This usually won’t handle high iron concentrations in your well.
  • Air-injection: Aeration or “air-injection” filters, like the Ion Pro® Air Iron, work by oxidizing dissolved iron into precipitates so they can be filtered and removed.
  • Tannin filters: Organically bound iron can be harder to remove. The CareSoft Pro® Tannin Filter uses a unique resin to absorb the tannin-bound iron.
  • Ozone generator: An ozone generator is a chemical-free option to address iron bacteria. Ozone is a natural disinfectant. Our IonPro air-injected filters can create it by pulling in oxygen (O2) and zapping it with an electrical current to form ozone (O3) – just like lightning does during a storm.

Every well system and water source is unique. Get recommendations on suitable filtration and treatment methods for your home by hiring a local authorized WaterCare water treatment expert who understands the water quality issues in your region. Contact your WaterCare dealer today for a complimentary consultation!