You are here:

Water Quality/Well Water Quality


Steve, We bought our house last year and have had several issues with our water.  Off and on we have noticed black residue.  In the dog's water bowl is often cloudy.  The washing machine water is mostly blackish in color.  We notice a slight sulfur smell when the water is run for a period of time. We have a whole house filter before the softener, we use a 20 micron filter.  When I change the filter I find the filter black in color and black residue also.  The filter needs changing about every 3 weeks.  We have a softener which is set to regenerate every other day.  The softener softens both hot and cold water.  Our neighbor who grew up in this area says that their are coal tailings about 2 miles away that affect the water in this area.  We finally had water tests done, No coliform, chloride was 57 mg/L, Fluoride was .18 mg/L, Hardness as CaCO3 not detected, Iron not detected, Nitrate as N not detected, Nitrite as N not detected, Sodium 208 mg/L, Sulfate 41 mg/L.  Our concern is the sodium level.  Thanks, Mark

Hi Mark,
Where was the sample taken that you had analyzed?  From the results it looks like it was taken after the softener, hence no hardness and the increase in Sodium.  If it was taken after the softener I need an analysis of your well water.  Same tests but also I will need a VOC test.  Let me know.  

Here is the analysis that you sent me on my email.  I am including this so that anyone reading this thread can follow the progress of our investigation.

"Steve,  you're probably back by now.  We had to order VOC test kit from
> state and just got results back this past Friday.  The VOC results which
> are about 2 pages long listed not detected for everything.  The other
> test which we did again before the whole house filter and before the
> softener had the following results: Chloride 58, Flouride .24, Hardness
> as CaCO3 406, Iron(automated) 3.5, Nitrate as N Not Detected-same for
> Nitrite as N, Sodium(automated) 17, Sulfate 41.  Mark"

First of all I am very relieved that the VOC level is low.  This indicates to me that there is no infiltration to your well water from the coal tailings that you mentioned in the earlier email.  I am almost positive that the problems you are seeing are due to the presence of iron bacteria.  The level of iron in your well water of 3.5 is very high.  Although iron is not listed by the EPA as one of the primary groundwater contaminants it is listed as a secondary contaminant and the maximum recommended level is 0.3ppm.  National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. However, states may choose to adopt them as enforceable standards. So, you are basically 10 times the recommended limit.  This is not a health concern but will cause the kinds of issues you are noticing.  I would recommend that you clean your well to try to control the iron bacteria.  This process utilizes chlorine to clean the well and kill the iron bacteria.  Here are some really good websites for this procedure and chemicals:$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/wwg411

This should take care of your problem.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Steve Young
Environmental Engineer
General Contractor  

Water Quality

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Steve Young


I will answer questions on residential water treatment, i.e. use of softeners, filters, reverse osmosis systems, disinfection, iron and/or sediment removal and other issues facing the homeowner. I have worked extensively with well water systems.


I have worked in the water treatment area for many years as a consultant and as a professional environmental engineer in the private industry sector. I have designed reverse osmosis, deionization, and water softening systems. I have also done work in water quality and stream and river remediation as it relates to the Clean Water Act.

I am currently serving as an Expert for Home Improvement, Travel (New Mexico) and Travel (North Carolina);

BS Environmental Eng.

©2017 All rights reserved.