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Water Quality/whole house filters


QUESTION: I recently purchased a home that has whole house filters for well water. We were low on PH, high on iron, high on nitrates, and high on manganese. The 3 filters we have are 1 for nitrates with a 740 logix timer, a neutralizer with an autotrol 440 timer and 163 valve, and a softener for iron and manganese with an autotrol 440 timer and 155 valve.
We had a fish odor to the water and were told that it was due to the iron/manganese filter getting stuck in a backwash cycle during a power outage. (but it is set to backwash at night and the outage was during the day). The odor kept occurring periodically and we noticed that the timer on the PH neutralizer tank was not keeping time.
We were told that each tank backwashes once per week, would this be correct? I want to make sure everything is backwashing properly and plan to replace the broken timer with a 460TC.
How often should the neutralizer backwash?
How often should the manganese/iron softener backwash?
How often should the nitrate filter backwash?

Thank you.

ANSWER: Hi Jennifer,
Before I get into your question I need some more information including a water analysis of your well water.  I need to know the following:

Total Hardness
Iron (Ferric and Ferrous)
TDS (total dissolved solids)
TSS (Total suspended solids)

Did you have any biological testing done on well water before you bought the house?  This would be testing for coliform bacteria, e-coli, etc.  Most homes with wells require this kind of testing for bank financing.  If you did let me know those results too.

Also, I need to know about how much water you use each day.  Backwash cycles are based on water usage.  I may have to calculate that if  you don't know that answer.  If I have to calculate I need to know how many people live in the house and if you do extra watering - say irrigation, garden, lawn etc.  What are the manufacturers of your equipment: softener, neutralizer, etc.  

I will wait to hear back from you.


Steve Young, P.E.
Environmental Engineer
General Contractor

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

QUESTION: Yes, I did have a water test done by the county and they retested 4 times until the filtration system got the water to meet the requirements. The initial raw test was:
ph=4.5 s.u
total hardness=no result (was told that "we do not have hard water issue")
iron=<3 mg/L (is this the total hardness value?)
calcium=no value listed
magnesium=no value listed
manganese=0.38 mg/L
iron=<3 mg/L (it is not separated into ferrous and ferric)
nitrates 16380 Ug/L
TDS=no value listed
TSS= no value listed
The retests were:
ph=5.5, 6, 6.3, 6.3, and 6.9
nitrates=16.38, <1
manganese=0.34, 0.10, 0.073, 0.08, <0.025
The coliform bacteria and e-coli results were "absent" so there was no issue there. I did order an at home test so I plan on retesting myself because the odor we used to have had me concerned. That test is set to arrive tomorrow.
Our water usage is very minimal (we conserve as much as we can) I would estimate 1000-1500 gallons per wk. We are a 5 person household, 2 adults and 3 kids ages 13, 5, and 3. We do not do any outdoor irrigation and have HE washer and dishwasher that were replaced when we moved in. We are very conscious of our usage and try to conserve, however, with kids it doesn't always work. I do about 4 laundry load per week, 2 dishwasher loads/wk and 10-15 min. of by hand dishes/day. Toilet flushing is something we pay attention to since the kids sometimes do not fully "go" so we do no waste flushes for dribbles.( TMI I know but I want you to have a good idea where our # came from).
As for the manufacturers of the tanks themselves, I have no clue. I looked at the tank and see no information other than the valves and timers at the top. I know the neutralizer tank is 10x54 (because it was on the installation paperwork but no manufacturer) the softener/manganese tank is similar in size and the nitrate tank is smaller.
I found it odd that they "preset" all of the backwashing without knowing our household size or anything.
Thank you!

ANSWER: do you know why  the original nitrate test and the first retest are the same number?

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

QUESTION: I believe it was prior to them installing the nitrate filter. Once they installed it the numbers fell right in order.


I am still working on your question.  In the meantime let me ask you - are you using this water for drinking?  I wouldn't advise drinking thiswater - it has obviously been contaminated at some point - by what it's difficult to tell.  But the presence of hign nitrates is troubling and the fact there is absolutely no hardness in the water - I have never seen that in 30 years in the water treatment field!  Additionally the very low pH is also a concern.  I think it's probably OK for secondary uses but not drinking.  That is just my opinion based on what you've told me and what your analysis shows.
I will get back to you when I am finished.


I'm sorry you found it necessary to give me such low ratings.  As I mentioned in my response above I was working on your question.   One thing you should understand is that we do this as VOLUNTEERS!  I don't receive a dime for the work I do for this site.  I have a full time job which keeps me very busy and a family and other obligations.  Your making a donation has nothing to do with speed of responses - any donations I receive go straight to my nonprofit choice - the ASPCA!
You never answered my last question about drinking your water and it's uses - that was going into my answer.  According to my site you never even read my last response - at least you didn't open it.

Good luck - I hope you are able to resolve your problems,


Hi Jenn,
Ok, I would be glad to finish your question if you still want me to.  Your original questions included timing on the backwash cycle on the 3 filters that you have.  You indicated that you have no information on the manufacturer, etc. of these systems.  This makes answering this part of the question very hard since the backwash is directly related to the regeneration cycle.   There are many factors that go into setting these systems so I am going to just proceed as best I can.  In the meantime if  you can find any info on these systems it would be very helpful.  Do you have a local rep helping you with any of this?  Also, as part of my last question I am very curious about the use of this well water - do you use it for drinking at all?  Please tell me no.  So, drop me a note and let's get back on track here.  It may be best to start a new question so it doesn't get too confusing to this site system.  

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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