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Water Quality/Follow up from February posts

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White residue on plant
White residue on plant  
QUESTION: Hi Steve,

For some reason it will not let me follow up on the same posts we already started so I will give you a quick recap of where we left off, but first I wanted to thank you for all of your help so far - you have really been a wonderful source of information!

When I spoke with you back in January/Feburary I was concerned about our well water.  We had water tests done before we bought the house on November 11th with these results (after water softner treatment):

Sulfate - 1,192 mg/L
Calcium - 5mg/L
Magnesium - none detected
Hardness - 12 mg/L
Sodium - 252mg/L
Copper - .02mg/L
Iron - none detected
Manganese - .02mg/L

We have an RO system for our drinking water (spicket on our kitchen sink and it's connected to our fridge for water and ice) through Culligan that at the time was tasting HORRIBLE and along with that we had HORRIBLE white spotting anywhere the water touched.  We had the people (not Culligan, different company) come out to service our softner numerous times and they kept telling us everything was fine and that the spotting was from the high salt (since it was almost like a white dust).  You had told me you find it very hard to believe it was the high sodium and that you felt the softner was leaking hardness.  So, we had them come back out and on February 13th and they gave us the following results:

Raw Water
Hardness - 55
Iron - .6
pH - 8.0

Treated Water
Hardness - 1
Iron - 0
pH - 8.6

Again, they told us everything was fine, but after I sent you these results you had mentioned that there was definilty something wrong because the hardness never should have been 12 back in November.  In the meantime, Culligan was coming numerous times to fix our RO and couldn't figure out why the water was still tasting horrible so they replaced the whole system for us at no charge and then it tasted perfect (they have been WONDERFUL to work with)!

So, where we are at now -

The white spotting is still horrible, and within the past month I realized the water coming from the RO was leaving a white residue also (even though it still tastes fine).  I have attached a picture of one of my plants that I was watering with the RO water and you can see how built up the white residue is (I have another plan that was way worse but I was able to rub most of the residue off).  So, because of this I called Culligan (who services the RO, NOT the softner)and they came out for no charge to check out the RO system but also check out the softner since they agreed with you that something else is going on besides there being spotting from just sodium.  Here is some results from them:

Raw Water
Hardness - 56
TDS - 1400

Treated Water
Hardness - 4
TDS - 1900

RO System
TDS - 490

So after checking the softner and the RO system Culligan determined a few things:

1. The RO system is not working properly (the hardness should not be 4) because the softner is not the proper size for what is needed and is overloaded (he explained it in terms I do not understand nor can I even begin to try and explain to you, haha).  We told him that we go through 6 bags of salt in a month and he said that is WAY WAY WAY too much.  

2. Based on the results he said if it were him he would not drink the water coming out of the RO system (he did say we could drain it and then let it fill up once the softner refills or something like that, but then we would have to do that every few days - I didn't really understand what he was saying).

Culligan has been absolutly wonderful with us.  They have charged us nothing, they have been nothing but accomodating and they truly seem to make sense with what they are saying (the company we had previously servicing the softner has been impossible to reach ever since I brought up the system not working.  I told them I am not happy about it since they have continously blown me off telling me everything is fine).  Culligan is telling us that the softner we currently have (water right impression series, Model # IM-1054-00-02-01-00-00) cannot handle our water and they are recommending us purchase a 10" twin softner HE.

So here is where I need your expertise:

Is Culligan just trying to get us to purchase one of their units, or is what they saying make sense?  Obviously this is a big expense so we are trying to get some information before we jump in and drop 3 grand!  We are desperate to get our water "normal" so we are ready to jump in and replace the system if that was what will solve the problem.  What are your thoughts?

Amanda

ANSWER: Hi Amanda,
I am glad that you have been able to get some help from Culligan.  Culligan is certainly one of the top companies in the water treatment field.  Each office is an independently owned franchise so I have found some of the locations excellent and others so-so.  They have excellent products and provide a very good training program for their franchise owners.  So, having said that it sounds to me like you have hooked up with a very good Culligan dealer.  I totally agree with their recommendation to the extent that I can.  Unfortunately I can't look over the situation first hand so I am depending on other peoples testing and observations.  I have thought all along that your problems were related to the water softener. It has appeared to be undersized and leaking through hardness on a consistent basis.  With the high level of sulfates that you have in your water any hardness that leaks through is going to form either Calcium Sulfate or Magnesium Sulfate and both of these compounds are relatively insoluble and will form white crystals when the water is evaporated.  
So, I would go ahead and replace the water softener.  Perhaps you can negotiate a lower price - I would try anyway.  Also, as much abuse as that little RO unit has taken I would recommend replacing the main membrane.  You didn't mention what kind of RO unit you have (other than it is an undersink model) but most have several filters and a main RO membrane.  You should definitely replace the membrane and you might as well replace all of them while you are at it.  You should be able to do all that for less than $100.
I hope this helps.  If you have any questions or need additional information let me know.  Good luck Amanda.

Steve
Environmental Engineer
General Contractor


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

QUESTION: Thanks so much Steve! I greatly appreciate your quick response! I agree that it seems like we have found an excellent Culligan branch! They already told us that they would replace the membrane and other parts for no charge once we replace the softener. I will also try and negotiate a lower price (I'm actually pretty good at that)! :) I appreciate your opinion and recommendation! I just wanted to make sure they were not trying to take advantage of us, but I assumed they were not since what they were saying made sense and seemed to be on track with what you said in the past. Thanks so so so so so much again!

Amanda!

ANSWER: Hi Amanda,
You are very welcome - I am glad that I have been able to help.  Please keep me posted and let me know if anything comes up that you need help with.
Take good care!
Steve

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

QUESTION: Hi Steve,

So here I am again needing your expertise.  The company that has been servicing our softner finally stopped blowing me off and contacted me today.  I told them that I got a 2nd opinion (Culligan - but did not mentioned to them it was Culligan) and told them that there is clearly an issue with the softner.  The guy told me that the information I recieved (from Culligan) is incorrect and any system we have is going to cause the same issues.  I told him that the hardness numbers are inconsistent and he said that that is normal because hardness goes up during the day as the water is used.  He told me that for our high hardness, 6 bags of salt a month is normal where Culligan is telling me we shouldn't be having to use more than 3 bags a month.  When I told him that Culligan said we should only be using less than 3 bags he laughed and said again that what they told me is not true.  I told him that our RO system was not able to handle the water because the softner is not working properly and he said that is a Culligan issue and that has nothing to do with the softner.  He is telling me that for the next 3-4 nights I should press the regenerate button at night and then he will come check it out next week sometime.  He said that we can replace the system and do what we want but he claims if we do we are still going to have the same exact issues.  Based on the information I have given you, what are your thoughts about what he is telling me?  I feel like Culligan's information made more sense, but again, I would hate to drop 3 grand to still have the same issues.  I have no interest in continuing business with this company either way since they seem unreliable, but I just wanted to see what your thoughts are on what they told me today.

Answer
Hi Amanda,
I am really uncomfortable in this position.  As I mentioned, since I can't see this system in person and do my own tests, I have to rely on the data as I see it.  Now this has degenerated into a he said, he said situation between salesmen.  As far as I'm concerned you should go with Culligan.  I know Culligan, have worked with them for many years and I know that they have the expertise and experience to take care of any issue that comes up.
There is absolutely no reason why you should EVER have any hardness leak from a softener.  Hardness does NOT go up during the day - that's a load of crap.  It should stay the same in the incoming water whether you are using 5 gallons a day or 5000.  Also the operation and efficiency of the RO unit is directly related to how well the softener works!!  The better the water coming into the RO unit the better it's efficiency.
How much water do you use per day?  Also, you have numbers for the raw water hardness of 55.  Is this ppm or grains per gallon - do you know?  I am just curious.
Let me know about the water usage and this last item.
Steve

Water Quality

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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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