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Water Quality/High Sodium in Well Water

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QUESTION: Hi, we bought a house 2 months ago and ever since we have had a white spotting on dishes, appliances, floors, etc - basically anywhere the water drips and drys, it leaves a white residue.  We have a water softner for our hard well water.  A month before we bought the house we had testing done and ti said the sodium level after going through the treatment system was 252.0 mg/L.  The sulfate was 1,192 mg/L.  We were concerned with these high numbers but told they were fine.  We have had the water softner people out numerous times and they just recently did a test to make sure the white marks were not from the hardness - before treatment the water was 55 hard and after it was 1 so those marks are not hard water marks.  We were told today that to filter out the sodium it would cost anywhere between $15,000 and $20,000 to put in an RO system.  We have an RO system for drinking water (comes out of a spicket on our sink) which of course is not working.  We are concerned about cooking with this water and if this sodium is going to eventually eat away at our wood floor, pipes and cause other issues.  Any help would be appreciated!

ANSWER: Hi Amanda,
I need to know the units that you are expressing the hardness levels in.  You said before the softener the hardnes is 55 and after it is 1.  Is the 55 mg/l (ppm) or is it grains per gallon?  This is very important!!  55 grains is very hard but 55 mg/l is not.  55 grains per gallon is equivalent to about 930 mg/l.  The sulfate level you said was a little under 1200 is this after the softener?  Do you know what the sodium level is in the well water before the softener?

What is the brand of softener you have and what is the model number?

So, get me the answers to these questions and I will help you understand your alternatives.
Steve
Environmental Engineer
General Contractor

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Steve,

Thank you so much for the quick response!

The brand of the softener is water right impression series and the model number IM-1054-00-02-01-00-00.

T sincehe hardness level is mg/l.  The well depth is over 500ft so the water is pretty hard(that's what the neighbors told us)

Yes, the sulfate level is after the softener. Unfortunately we do not have the sodium level before the softener.

On a side note we have an RO system for drinking water (spicket on the sink and connected to or fridge water and ice) but for some reason it hasn't been working since we moved in the house.. The. company can't figure out why so they are replacing the whole system next week.

ANSWER: Hi Amanda,
OK, let me do some thinking about this.  One good thing is that you have one of the best softeners available.  That family owned company has been in business since Noah's Ark :-) (just kidding) but I have heard many good things coming out of Wisconsin about them so I would trust their product and their testing.  That's good!  So, I will get back with you in a day or so.  On your RO I suspect that maybe the high TDS of your new well water is overwhelming the system.  I will be interested in hearing what the company says.
Take care,
Steve

Hi Amanda,
OK after doing some calculations I have come to the conclusion that your water softener is allowing hardness to bleed through at certain times.  There is no way that the white crystals you are finding are sodium salts - even with the high sulfate level.  Sodium sulfate has a solubility in water much higher than you would have in your water.  What I think is happening is that the water softener isn't being regenerated often enough.  This results in a period of time where Calcium and Magnesium pass through the softener.  It is the Calcium and Magnesium salts (i.e. Calcium sulfate or Magnesium sulfate or possibly Calcium Carbonate) that is forming these crystals. My recommendation would be to increase the softener regeneration frequency and see what happens.  So, try that and let me know what happens.  I will be very curious to see if this works.
Good luck,
Steve

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Steve,

Thank you so much for getting back to me!  I apologize with my delayed response - we live in CT and have been dealing with the blizzard and the many many many inches of snow! = )

I am glad to hear that our softener is one of the best available!  Our water softener company came out last month and reset the softener to regenerate every 3 days and it has made no difference at all with the spotting. = ( I spoke with the neighbors and they said they have had the spotting for 12 years and it is just something we have to get used to since the well is so far down.  Does this sound legit?  The spotting is driving me crazy!!  It makes me nervous to drink the water!

As far as the RO - is there a way to make it so the well water is not overwhelming the system?  The Culligan people come on Wednesday to switch out the system but I suspect that it is not going to make much of a difference if the high TDS is overwhelming the system.  Any ideas?

Thanks again for all of your help!

Answer
Hi Amanda,
Boy, water problems are probably the least of your worries right now, or at least down the scale some.  I have been watching the news and you guys got dumped on!!  I live in NC now (in the foothills) and we don't get much snow. However, I grew up and spent most of my life in northern New Mexico (Taos Ski area) and so I'm used to a lot of snow. I miss it!

Now to your softener.  The well depth/spotting makes no sense to me.  It doesn't make any difference if the well is 50' or 1500' - what causes the spotting is a specific chemical reaction.  Here's what I suggest - see if you can get the water treatment company that supplies the softener to do a complete water analysis on the well water and the water coming out of the softener.  I would like to see analysis for the following: Ca, Mg, Mn, Fe, SO4, Cl, TDS, pH, K, Na, Ba, and Al.  If I can see that analysis I will be able to tell you exactly what is going on and if there is a way of treating it. I am particularly interested in the pH and TDS but I really need all of them.  This will also help me answer your questions about the RO unit. I'm just guessing right now and am in the dark until I have a complete picture.  If the softener company won't do a complete analysis see if you can get Culligan to do it.

Let me know when you get me some numbers.  Good luck digging out!
Steve

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Steve Young

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

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

Education/Credentials
BS Environmental Eng.

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