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Water Quality/well water filters


QUESTION: We were drinking the water as we were told it was safe. We have a carbon filter to the refrigerator as well. The local conditioning company has been very strange when we ask about manufacturers. They keep saying we have a neutralized, a nitrate filter, and a softener. The softener tank says "challenger" but that is it.  The neutralizer receipt says the size of the tank, but that is it. The 2 local companies say they set all tanks to backlash once per week...this did not seem right to me.
My home test showed nitrates in the 5-10 range (based on matching the swab to the color). We were told that the nitrate filter had it to less than 1 in December when the county tested it. I am at a loss as to what to do since the local companies do not seem reputable.  Should we be considering a different system? How can we make this drinkable?

ANSWER: Hi Jennifer,

I think the water is probably OK to drink, it's just that I don't understand your system well enough to fell comfortable saying it's OK.  Also, anytime you have high nitrates in a well (and you have moderately high nitrates but I've seen much worse) you can be 99% sure the ground water has been contaminated.  Although nitrates are a natural part of groundwater, when you see levels exceeding 10ppm it is no longer due to natural oxidation of organic matter in the water. That's what concerns me because I don't know the source of the contamination.  It's probably due to fertilizer contamination.  Where  do you guys live - what state, etc.?  (I don't want your address, just the area).   Here is a really good sheet on nitrates in water.

I think that the best solution for you is to put in a reverse osmosis system for your drinking water.  I use one for drinking water at my ranch and it works great.  Here is what I'm talking about:
This is just an example - it's the kind that I use but you can find a lot of other systems on the market.  This unit will produce 50 gallons per day of essentially pure water.  That will be plenty for your drinking water needs. As long as you take care of your drinking water needs then treating the other water becomes a little easier.

A couple more questions:  do you have to do anything to any of the units?  Add salt or anything.  Do you have to periodically change the filter media?  The companies that you have been working with - are they the ones that supplied the systems originally?  I don't blame you when you say they don't seem reputable.  They seem completely out to lunch to me!!  They should be on top of this situation.  Do you have a Culligan dealer where you live?  They are generally a very good company.  The dealers are independently owned and operated so there are a few bad apples but they have an excellent support lab and have top notch products.

So.....let me know.  I will wait to hear back from you.

Steve Young, P.E.
Environmental Engineer
General Contractor

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QUESTION: I have asked both conditioning companies about reverse osmosis systems and they ignore it. Can that system be used in conjunction with what we have? I know our system is ion exchange resin tanks. We do have 2 containers that we have to keep full of salt. It is my understanding that this salt is for the brainwashing of the filters. We don't seem to go through much salt at all though. They filled them in mid December and we added 2- 40 lb bags in January and we're still using them. I am not sure why they won't tell us manufacturers,  but we called 3 times yesterday and they give the run-around.  
I am concerned that the nitrates were said to be below 1 on the county retest and my home kit said 5-10. I know home kits aren't great, but what if this "new" system they installed is not functioning? The water company is local and he said he was surprised by the nitrates because this development typically didn't have them. He lives a few miles down the road and they have them. I am in the southern part of new jersey. Years ago there was an oil tank below ground that was removed with permits and ground testing....not sure if that is relative.
I just want water I can give my children and not worry. We are back to bottled water again until we know for sure. So can the reverse osmosis be used with the whole house ion exchange? I have a autograph 460tc timer on the way for the neutralizer,  should I do this and just call another company for the reverse osmosis?  There is one local that says "free water analysis" too. Let me know on the backwash too. Apparently once a week is the standard here. Thank you!

ANSWER: Hi Jenn,  (I am typing this on my smart phone so if there are errors that's why :-)
We are in the middle of a major storm (for us anyway - I live in western North Carolina near the Virginia border) so I will be out of touch for a couple of days.  However, I will tell you that I recommend calling any companies in your phone book listed under "Water Treatment" and see if they will come out and do a free water analysis and give you their recommendations.  If they want to charge you don't do it.  Any reputable company will do this for free as part of their service.  I am very concerned about your current companies.  They are either ignorant or trying to pull one over on you.  I wouldn't drink that water until we get this straightened out.  To answer one of your questions about Reverse Osmosis (RO) - yes you can use it with your current system.  It's really not economically feasible to use it on your entire house - just the drinking water.  Also your question, re: Nitrates and home test kits.  While the test kits are not as accurate as a lab type test they will usually be fairly close.  If the test is showing 5-10 ppm it's probably in the range.  It's definitely not 1.  Does your county do water testing?  Most counties do.  The undnerground tank could very well be the source of your nitrate problem -- nitrates are formed as a result of the breakdown of organic matter and oil, gas, etc. is definitely organic.  One last thing - I am disturbed by the company's refusal to give you the name of the equipment manufacturer.    That's totally ridiculous and really makes you wonder what they are hiding.
I have to get to my office/lab before the storm hits or I won't be able to make it at all.  I will be in touch.  Please give me the information in this note.Take care,
PS:I totally understand and empathize with your concern for your children.  You are obviously a very caring mother and I will sure try to help you get this worked out!!

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QUESTION: Yes, the county tested it 2 mths ago and retested 4 times. I got the home test when we had the fishy odor. We called tge water company out but they thought it was because the softener was stuck in a backwash cycle. However, I am not sure why it was stuck like that because the power loss was during the day and it backwashes at night. I got the home test because I was nit comfortable with their explanation.
we will call some water companies that offer analysis to discuss reverse osmosis and the backwash cycles.
Hopefully tge storm is not too bad for you, we're supposed to get a bit of it tonight into tomorrow.

We are getting blasted!!  This is the worst storm we've had since I've lived in NC (15 years).  Anyway I would like you to read this article:

You will see why backwash timing has little, if anything, to do with your issues.  Only as it's related to regeneration of the system does it matter.  When the unit is regenerated, or recharged, the unit is cleaned and the "good" ions replace the "bad" ions that have been attracted to the softener resin.

So, when I explain to you what I think the problem is this will make more sense.


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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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