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Water Quality/Iron Overload


Hi Steve,
Thanks for your time and expertise.
I have a pretty shallow well (1.5 years old, not sure exactly how deep), and an iron problem.
I haven't had the water tested and don't drink it, but use it for everything else. I've lived here for over a year, and have had no adverse health effects.
I'm certain there are multiple types of iron in the water:
Tub, etc. stained red-brown.
Black residue on dishes.
Water mixed with tea or other beverages turns cloudy black.
Water pale yellow-brown colour (darker in hot water).
Slimy surface & bubbles on standing water (iron bacteria - my favourite).

My question is, is there any one filtration system that deals with all types of iron, or is the only viable option to dig a new and deeper well? Is there any way to know before the new well is done that the water won't be identical to what it is now? I'm getting pretty frustrated, as I keep having to deep-clean fixtures, dishes, etc. and can't buy white or light clothes without ruining them in the wash, and my skin, nails and hair have been affected. I don't want to spend a bunch of money on something that doesn't really work, though.

Neighbours living close by have the same problem, though far, far less severe. No black, no slime, just the egg odour during runoff and staining of fixtures. Closest neighbours also have a shallow well.

Thanks again for your time.

Hi Evelyn,
Yes, iron is a real problem.  Not from a health standpoint but from the staining and aesthetic problems it causes in the house.  It can also become fodder for iron bacteria which, although not harmful to humans, causes additional problems.  Most of the time when you have iron bacteria you will have that rotten egg odor.  If that gets too severe you will need to chlorinate your well.  But I would wait on that one unless it's unbearable.
To answer your question about your well and whether or not digging a deeper one would produce better water:  Unfortunately, there is no way to know the quality of water without actually digging a deeper well or at least a test well.  You may want to consider asking some of your neighbors with deeper wells what kind of water they have.  You would want to talk with a neighbor upstream of your home.  What I mean by upstream is that underground water flows just like a river does.  Most people think that underground water is like a giant lake or swimming pool.  In actuality most underground aquifers flow just like a river.  So, you would want to ask some people who work for well drilling companies which way your water is likely to flow and then check with the neighbors upstream.  Also, I have found well drillers themselves are a wealth of information on the quality of water in wells of varying depths.  They are working with it day in and day out so it makes sense.
As far as filtration equipment to get rid of all the iron the answer is yes.  However, I am going to need to know what we are dealing with and the only way to get that is with an analysis.  If you live near a university they may do it at a reduced cost.  Here in the states our county health departments will often do it for free.  Check around.  When you have the analysis let me know and I will give you a recommendation.  I will look forward to hearing from you.
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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.

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