5 Common Mistakes People Make When Treating Well Water

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Treating Well Water

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Treating Well Water

I have been treating bad, nasty, stinking, staining, rotten-egg smelling, horrible well water for close to fifty years.  Some of my earliest memories of my late father (Stephen E. Timmons) were going to work with him at the water treatment company he worked for in Greenville, Ohio: “Miracle Water.”  As a side note, my father was the District Manager for Water Refining Company in Middletown, Ohio in the 1960’s, who sold the following Brands:  Miracle Water, Servisoft, and Refin-A-Matic. About twenty years later, I became the District Manager for the same company in 1979.  Small world! 

Back then, the solution for just about any water problem was a water softener.  Iron or rust in your water?  A water softener was the solution.  Hard water?  A water softener was the solution. Low pH, nitrates, arsenic?  Who knew? Oh…. and rotten-egg odor (sulfur) was something you just put up with.  Bacteria? Not in my water! 

The 5 Most Common Mistakes

Things have changed a lot in the 60 years since the time I used to go to work with my fatherI followed in his footsteps and became a Master Water Specialist.  Water treatment has come a long way since the 1960’s. We still have water softeners, albeit a lot more efficient and reliable ones, but even though science has discovered hundreds (maybe thousands) of new contaminants, the technology in treating water has certainly come a long way.  However, people still make some very common mistakes when treating their well water and in light of all of the technology that we have available at our fingertips, I thought I would articulate what I believe are the TOP FIVE: 

#1 – Failing to Get a Detailed Water Analysis 

“Measure twice – cut once” is what an old carpenter told me.  It simply means that you need to be sure what the “exact” length of that board is before you cut it. It is also very applicable to water treatment.  You need to know what “exactly” is in the water before you treat it.  There can be competing contaminants and other factors that can affect how to best treat your water.  That “Knowledge is Power” has never been truer than when you are trying to treat problem well water. To properly treat well water, we must know what the levels of each contaminant are to fully understand what equipment needs to be specified to successfully treat the water problem(s) economically and sustainably. We offer a good lab water analysis on our website right HERE. Remember, measure twice, cut once! 

#2 – Trying to Use a Water Softener as an Iron Filter

If you have well water, the odds are pretty good that you have iron (often called “rust”) in your water.  You know when you have iron because of the reddish stains left by this element. Iron also exists with hydrogen sulfide, manganese and/or hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg odor) in the water.  Using a water softener as an iron filter may be a huge disservice to your water treatment in totality!   

A water softener works with ion exchange and yes, under the right circumstances, a water softener can remove iron.  Under the right circumstances, I might be able to perform brain surgery, but my advice would be to trust a professional with that.  

The same is true with removing iron.  In my opinion, iron is best removed by oxidation, not ion-exchange.  Iron and sulfur are usually best removed by oxidation.  It used to be that chlorine and potassium permanganate were the “oxidizers of choice” for removing iron and sulfur.  Now, oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and ozone are the technologies of choice.  Each of these technologies has its benefits and weaknesses so one must know how and when to apply each one. 

I cannot take credit for being THE PIONEER into hydrogen peroxide technology, but 25 years ago, I was one of the pioneers into H2O2 technology, and in my opinion, it is usually the best iron and sulfur removal technology available. There is no better way to remove sulfur, and it is also outstanding at removing arsenic when iron is present in the water. 

#3 – Using Chlorine for Iron and/or Hydrogen Sulfide Removal 

Chlorine is a great disinfectant but not a great oxidizer.  Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent oxidizer, but not an excellent disinfectant. Iron and sulfur are best removed by oxidation, and chlorine is ill-suited for that. Chlorine works great for surface water supplies where bacteria and algae are issues, but for high levels of iron and/or sulfur, chlorine is woefully inadequate. It also produces disinfection by-products, which are carcinogenetic… so there is that! 

Potassium permanganate has a place but is not nearly as widely used as it used to be. I believe that oxygen, H2O2, and ozone are the best oxidizers for iron and sulfur. What levels are in your water and what competing contaminants are present determines your most prudent course of treatment. 

#4 – Believing That the Water is Bacterially Pure

Even if you are on city water, I would advise you not to trust the municipality to continuously provide you with bacterially pure water.  Our water infrastructures are aging, and it is impossible for any city to “guarantee” bacterially pure water 24/7/365.   

This is even more true when you are on well water. No one (except you) is responsible for making sure the water is microbiologically pure. and even if it is pure today, will it be pure tomorrow? In my opinion, a disinfection component, such as ultraviolet (UV) needs to be a part of any successful well water treatment system. 

#5 – Basing a Buying Decision Solely Upon Price

What is worse – to pay too much for something or too little?  Obviously, you do not want to do either!  However, if you make a buying decision on price, you may be in for a disaster.  There are lots of very inferior systems that are made overseas that will not successfully treat your water, and there are also companies that sell high-priced water treatment systems that are overpriced and underperforming. 

Do your homework and consider what kind of track record the company you are considering has.  Do they have Master Water Specialists on staff?  Do they have an A+ rating with the BBB.  What are their credentials?  Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.   

I have frequently asked potential customers to bring me conversations with people who are trying to sell them products that are simply rooted in fantasy.  In many instances, it becomes apparent that they are simply trying to earn a commission and have no water treatment knowledge.  Be careful of who and what you believe. That’s part of the reason US Water Systems has no commissioned salesmen. 

We sell what you need to solve your water problems… not what we want!  Be careful. Be smart and ask hard questions.  We expect it! 

April 29, 2020
John Huizenga
April 30, 2020 at 1:07 PM
I really appreciate this post! Great summary of years of wisdom from experience with water treatment. I work with the oxidation needs of water treatment having worked for Oxidation Technologies for two years now and depend heavily on good information from experts in the field of water treatment and other applications. With our ozone systems, we are striving to keep them as simple as possible, robust, and yet precise. From what I understand, ozone might be a more attractive option for oxidation needs if it is more cost-effective and reliable. Our focus is on understanding the needs of customers and building a system that is specific for that application. Currently I have been involved in quarterly maintenance of a number of systems through US Water for ultra pure water and also cooling tower bio control. From my perspective, it seems as though ozone is a great solution for these applications and I wonder why more cooling towers are reluctant to adopt it. Anyway, thanks for the post. If you have more information on ozone use from your perspective, I would greatly appreciate it.