Iron Bacteria and Sulfur Bacteria

Iron Bacteria and Sulfur Bacteria
By Mark Timmons
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Iron Bacteria and Sulfur Bacteria

Actually the correct terminology is "Iron Reducing Bacteria" (hereafter called "IRB") and "Sulfate Reducing Bacteria" (hereafter called "SRB").  IRB and SRB are troublesome to many people with well water. Iron Bacteria presents many problems, so an accurate determination of its presence is crucial to appropriate treatment.  Iron Reducing Bacteria (IRB) cause aesthetic problems with the water such as taste, odor and staining of laundry and fixtures.  The most common indication of iron bacteria in the water supply is a reddish-brown or yellowish gelatinous slime in water tanks, faucets, toilet tanks, and plumbing. These nuisance bacteria may cause corrosion to treatment equipment, clog screens and pipes, and have a foul odor. Here are a few of the common problems associated with Iron Reducing Bacteria: TASTES AND ODORS - Iron bacteria often produce unpleasant tastes and odors commonly reported as: "swampy," "oily or petroleum," "cucumber," "sewage," "rotten vegetation," or "musty." The taste or odor may be more noticeable after the water has not been used for some time. Iron bacteria do not produce hydrogen sulfide, the "rotten egg" smell, but do create an environment where sulfur bacteria can grow and produce hydrogen sulfide. COLOR - Iron bacteria will usually cause yellow, orange, red, or brown stains and colored water. It is also sometimes possible to see a rainbow colored, oil-like sheen on the water. RED SLIMY DEPOSITS - Iron bacteria produce a sticky slime which is typically rusty in color, but may be yellow, brown, or grey. A "feathery," or filamentous growth may also be seen, particularly in standing water such as a toilet tank. The characteristics listed above are typical of iron bacteria. However, objectionable stains, tastes, or odors may be due to other causes including iron, sulfate, hydrogen sulfide, manganese, or other nuisance organisms such as sulfur bacteria.  

SULFUR REDUCING BACTERIA 

Sulfur-reducing bacteria (SRB) live in oxygen-deficient environments. They break down sulfur compounds, producing hydrogen sulfide gas in the process. Hydrogen sulfide gas is foul-smelling and highly corrosive.  Of the two types, sulfur-reducing bacteria are the more common. The most obvious sign of a sulfur bacteria problem is the distinctive "rotten egg" odor of hydrogen sulfide gas. As with odors caused by iron bacteria, the sulfur smell may only be noticeable when the water hasn't been run for several hours.  In some cases, the odor will only be present when hot water is run; this could indicate that SRBs are building up in the water heater. Blackening of water or dark slime coating the inside of toilet tank may also  indicate a sulfur bacteria problem. Hydrogen sulfide gas produces an offensive "rotten egg" or "sulfur water" odor and taste in the water. In some cases, the odor may be noticeable only when the water is initially turned on or when hot water is used. Heat forces the gas into the air which may cause the odor to be especially offensive in a shower. One of the many troubles with hydrogen sulfide is its strong corrosiveness to metals such as iron, steel, copper and brass. It can tarnish silverware and discolor copper and brass utensils. Hydrogen sulfide also can cause yellow or black stains on kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Coffee, tea and other beverages made with water containing hydrogen sulfide may be discolored and the appearance and taste of cooked foods can be affected. High concentrations of dissolved hydrogen sulfide also can foul the resin bed of an ion exchange water softener. When a hydrogen sulfide odor occurs in treated water (softened or filtered) and no hydrogen sulfide is detected in the non-treated water, it usually indicates the presence of some form of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the system. Water softeners provide a convenient environment for these bacteria to grow. A "salt-loving" bacteria that uses sulfates as an energy source may produce a black slime inside water softeners. Sulfur-reducing bacteria, which use sulfur as an energy source, are the primary producers of large quantities of hydrogen sulfide. These bacteria chemically change natural sulfates in water to hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur-reducing bacteria live in oxygen-deficient environments such as deep wells, plumbing systems, water softeners and water heaters. These bacteria usually flourish on the hot water side of a water distribution system. Hydrogen sulfide gas also occurs naturally in some groundwater. It is formed from decomposing underground deposits of organic matter such as decaying plant material. It is found in deep or shallow wells and also can enter surface water through springs, although it quickly escapes to the atmosphere. Hydrogen sulfide often is present in wells drilled in shale or sandstone, or near coal or peat deposits or oil fields.  Occasionally, a hot water heater is a source of hydrogen sulfide odor. The magnesium corrosion control rod present in many hot water heaters can chemically reduce naturally occurring sulfates to hydrogen sulfide.  Treating water containing IRB and/or SRB can be easily accomplished, but you must first determine if you have SRB and IRB and in what concentrations. The best method to do this with the BART bacteria test.  You can find it HERE. [caption id="attachment_1280" align="alignleft" width="300"] Bart Tests For Iron and Sulfur Reducing Bacteria[/caption]    
July 5, 2012
Comments
Clint
January 23, 2013 at 12:03 AM
Can I clean my water softener? How and how often? Will it remove bacteria
mark
January 28, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Clint, Yes you can, but I would need to know more about your water. This video might help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jr0E-kLwarA
Ray Russell
October 21, 2014 at 2:44 AM
I use a 1500gallon per day RO system, with sand filter, carbon filter, sediment filter and then RO membrane with a UV sterilising light in the permeate line for processing water that starts as 250TDS, but has a very bad taste and is also salty. My RO system produces permeate water with TDS of 55 as shown on my portable tester and the cncentrtate water still shows as basically 248-250 TDS. There is however a tendency for the flow meter for the permeate on the RO unit to turn light brown over time and kettles used for boiling the water have a light brown deposit develop on the sides and bottom over time. Is this anything to do with Iron? Does the RO unit not remove Iron.? It's not a huge problem and I di drink the water with seemingly no ill effects, but I have this light brown deposit thing nagging in the back of my mind? Will a 50micron filter take care of such a thing if I put it in the permeate line?
Mark Timmons
November 8, 2014 at 9:41 AM
You should use an iron filter such as this to remove iron BEFORE any RO: https://www.uswatersystems.com/water-problems/iron-rust-manganese/fusion-superfilter-professional-grade-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-manganese-and-arsenic-removal-using-katalox-light.html
Lynda Cavener
May 27, 2015 at 11:41 AM
We have both IRB and SRB. What system do we need?
Mark Timmons
June 1, 2015 at 8:26 PM
Right here: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html
kristen
January 17, 2016 at 12:43 PM
We definitely have sulfur. The rotten egg smell is OVERPOWERING and taking a shower is not enjoyable anymore. We rent directly on a lake... within 20 ft of our door. Could that contribute? Our landlord days it's just iron that everyone deals with on the Lake, but it's definitely sulfur as well. My brand new washing machine is getting scaly & slimy. What do I do???
Mark Timmons
January 17, 2016 at 3:17 PM
Well, you need to get a detailed test first: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-lab-water-test.html And this: https://www.uswatersystems.com/single-sulfur-dioxide-test-tube.html and this: https://www.uswatersystems.com/bart-iron-and-sulfur-reducing-bacteria-tests-2953.html It's not cheap, but it will tell us EXACTLY what we need to do.
Cortney Hansley
October 6, 2016 at 10:31 AM
How can we resolve the odor that comes from the water? It is a rotten egg odor and is worse in the hot water. After running the cold water for a bit it sometimes goes away. The inside of the toliet tank has brownish stuff growing in the sides. I just cannot live like this. What do we have to do to fix it? It stains our white clothes a brownish color and I cannot stand the smell. Sometimes it has a yellowish tint to it
Mark Timmons
October 6, 2016 at 10:25 PM
This will get rid of the rotten egg odor TOTALLY and the stuff growing inside your toilet tank: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html Let me know if you have more questions.
Juanita Grable
August 13, 2017 at 12:05 AM
Recently my water softener was causing low water pressure in the house. I used ResCare cleaner twice and pressure has appeared to return to normal. But I just discovered orange slime in toilet water tank after noticing black in the bowl as if always dirty. I am on city water not well. Is the softener the source of the problem?
Mark Timmons
August 13, 2017 at 11:01 AM
It could be. How old is it?
Jennifer
August 30, 2017 at 8:15 PM
I'm suffering here with super salty and brown hot water, we use a braswell 2 tank system on a shallow well.. we have had 4 tech's out, and no-one can seem to help us. Since my animals can't drink it, we may have to move!- would this system help us?
Mark Timmons
August 30, 2017 at 10:25 PM
We can fix the problem - I am just not sure what system it would be because I do not know the levels of salt and other contaminants. Do you have a detailed water analysis? If not, this is the first step: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-lab-water-test.html Once we know what EXACTLY is in the water, we can make a recommendation and GUARANTEE the results.
Peter MacGregor
September 26, 2017 at 1:46 AM
Is there any evidence that Hydrogen sulfide gas increases the rate of rusting of steel?
Mark Timmons
September 26, 2017 at 3:02 PM
Use the "eye test" - It's very obvious!
Brian
November 28, 2017 at 7:29 PM
So how do you treat either one?
Mark Timmons
November 29, 2017 at 12:34 PM
We treat either one with our Oxi-Gen System and have excellent success: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html
Bryan
December 20, 2017 at 12:25 PM
This is driving me nuts. I have the sulphur smell in only one faucet, only on the cold side, and only when initially turned on. I've backwashed that line with a chlorine mix (PEX, so I can disconnect that line easily in the basement), which kills the smell for a couple of months, and it comes back. What drives me crazy is I don't smell it on any other faucet, shower, washing machine, etc., either cold or hot. No slime in toilets, black residue, etc. Any ideas?
Mark Timmons
December 23, 2017 at 6:08 PM
Do you have any type of water treatment system?
Nate
January 4, 2018 at 8:13 AM
Hi Mark, We live in north central Illinois and are on a well. Sulfur smell is a problem in our area. We currently use a system that incorporates a 20" 5 micron pre-filter followed by peroxide injection and a back washing carbon tank to combat the sulfur. Monthly, the pre-filters are changed due to being fouled by an orange, sometimes black substance. The carbon tank gets re-bed about every 2-3 years. Water quality changes with the weather, best when it's summer and worse in the winter. The water clarity varies too. Sometimes it's bright and clear, other times it has a greenish tint accompanied by a swampy odor. Been dealing with this for about 9 years. Any suggestions?
Mark Timmons
January 7, 2018 at 11:01 AM
Use Two Pre-Filters as step-down Filtration: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-big-blue-4-5-x-20-dual-filtration-system.html with 20 and 5 micron filters Use this with the Dual Injection Panel: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html Add a second Catalytic Carbon Tank and inject peroxide ahead of each tank in Series, not parallel. It's expensive, but effective.
LV
March 2, 2018 at 4:31 PM
Our water has 140,000 MPN/mL of IRB. We do notice a red/brown slime in the pipes. But also we are having a burning sensation on our tongues and skin breaking out when we drink the water and have stopped using our well water all together. Can this be caused by the high IRB concentration or is it something else?
Mark Timmons
March 3, 2018 at 12:25 PM
It could be I would need to see a detailed water analysis. If you don't have one, this is what I would suggest: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-watercheck-with-pesticides-lab-water-test.html
Margi
March 7, 2018 at 9:36 PM
HI Mark, I recently bought a1958 home just outside Atlanta, GA. I believe I've discovered Iron Bacteria in our water, but am struggling to find out where it is coming from. The evidence I've seen is this- We have a heavy duty 14 stage water filtration system, and one of the filters is continually getting completely clogged with a red/brown substance. When I take the filter out and collect a water sample, a fluffy brown slim settles at the bottom resembling the iron bacteria examples I've seen from research. Additionally, water occasionally comes out of the faucets a tint of brown/red color. We have copper pipes under the house, cast iron drain pipe, and from what I can see at the water meter, a white plastic main water line. I keep reading about iron bacteria primarily being an issue in well water, but we are on city water. I am struggling to decide where to start to fix this! Our home is approximately 200 feet from the meter. Could we have a leak somewhere in the pipe causing the issue? Any guidance would be much appreciated.
Mark Timmons
March 7, 2018 at 10:19 PM
I would like to see photos of your system and a description of what each stage is. Send to mark@uswatersystems.com
Margi
March 24, 2018 at 10:46 PM
Hi Mark, I never got a reply from you?
Mark Timmons
March 26, 2018 at 5:58 PM
I found it in span. I will anser soon.
Kay
June 4, 2018 at 7:11 AM
I just had a new water heater installed. Now the water smells like rotten eggs (never did before) and when I did laundry yesterday, I have orange stains on the clothes (now ruined!). Why would this happen - is the new water heater bad?
Mark Timmons
June 7, 2018 at 3:45 PM
No, it could be the type of anode rod you have. Ask your water heater supplier for a different rod.
Kristy Morin
July 15, 2018 at 1:13 PM
I have sulfur in my water.I installed an Iron, Manganese, Sulphur oxidizer with chlorine perm pot..The smell is reduced but the water still tastes bad ? Will the sulphur ruin my undersink RO ? I had to replace the carbon filters on the RO after just 2 weeks the water started tasting like Sulphur again..
Mark Timmons
July 26, 2018 at 5:50 PM
I would never recommend something like this. Sulfur will ruin everything. This absolutely works for sulfur: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html Every time.
Halogen Monster
July 15, 2018 at 6:15 PM
We use to not have this problem with the pink staining everywhere in bathrooms and kitchens in the 80s and early 90s. Water departments use to dump chlorine in the water to clean it. Now, they pay the aluminum and fertilizer industries to dump their toxic waste, bromine and fluorine. The pink bacteria is probably the only organism on this planet that thrives on a fluorine and bromine diet. The state politicians who have been bought off by the corporations are to blame. The global warming liberals in the state senate are going to die of bromine and fluorine before global warming floods their beach front property, and the christian conservatives in the state legislatures are surely going to burn in hell for allowing paying the corporations to dump all this toxic waste in our water supply when they should be cleaning it.
C.C.
August 17, 2018 at 9:27 AM
We have iron bacteria slime coming out of our bulkhead weep holes at our lake. My husband power washed the bulk head and now the slime is on the sand where my grandchildren play. Is it harmful to the swimming area ?
Mark Timmons
August 18, 2018 at 2:15 PM
I can't say. You should have it tested.
Robin
August 29, 2018 at 2:45 PM
We have a townhome we manage that is having slimy water residue promblems especially in the master jetted tub & toilets. They use filtered water to drink. The home is on city water & sewer in Peachtree City GA. I don't understand why this would be happening with city water? Any suggestions? Thank you, Robin
Mark Timmons
September 3, 2018 at 5:41 PM
A water analysis is the best place to start: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-lab-water-test.html
Susanne Risso
October 14, 2018 at 7:37 PM
We have a seep well on a river. Our toilet tanks have an orange/brown slime and the water in the bowl turns brown over time and gets an oily look to the surface. Our dogs water bowl starts out clear and after a couple hours it is orange/brown and oily looking. Our water tastes metallic when brushing our teeth. I think we have iron bacteria. We just built our home and I don't want my new toilets to turn orange/brown!! What to do??? We have a media tank, ultraviolet light and a water softener. The water was tested before the system was installed so we know there was lots of iron.
Mark Timmons
October 24, 2018 at 5:19 PM
Here's two solutions: https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html https://www.uswatersystems.com/infusion-backwashing-filter-for-iron-sulfur-and-manganese-removal.html We would need to know more about your water analysis and usage before we could make a recommendation.
Angela Daniel
November 15, 2018 at 2:35 PM
We live in a houseboat in a marina, so, the water we receive runs through hoses from the land for about 100 yds. We are on city water. The water is horrible! It stains anything it touches orange in a matter of minutes. It sometimes stinks of sewage to me. I have not seen any slime or oil on the surface of the water, but it completely clogs up any inline filters we put on the POE within one to two weeks. We have 2 10" filters and a smaller carbon filter inline on our hose. We also have an r/o filter on the kitchen sink from which the water looks fine. For whatever reason, our r/o filter doesn't clog. Our marina manager paid $300 for a water test and it came back very low in all named contaminants including iron, but the TPM of unidentified particulate matter was through the roof. They could not tell us what the particles were. I have never in my life seen water this bad. The marina manager let us try to shock the system where the water enters the hoses to come down the dock from the land. It didn't do much of anything. The water in the shopping center on the land is fine according to several business owners to which I have spoken, but all my fellow boaters complain of awful water. At this point, I would just like to know what type of filter i might use that would last longer. It is quite frustrating.
Mark Timmons
November 15, 2018 at 7:01 PM
It is impossible to advise you without seeing the water test. Could you possibly forward it to me?
Lynn Craig
December 4, 2018 at 6:25 PM
We live in Tucson and have city water. Have recently noticed black guck forming in places where there is standing water (toilets, bathroom sinks, bottom of refrigerator water dispenser. We were away for a few weeks and came back to black guck in the bathroom sinks which had actually caused bubbles or discoloration in the cultured marble. Tucson has extremely hard water - could this be the reason?
Mark Timmons
December 6, 2018 at 12:38 PM
Step 1: Bodyguard System https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-bodyguard-whole-house-chemical-removal-filtration-system.html Step 2: Matrixx Softener https://www.uswatersystems.com/matrixx-water-softener-with-smartphone-programming.html Step 3: RO for Drinking Water Only https://www.uswatersystems.com/aquapurion-plus-5-stage-reverse-osmosis-system.html
Donna Ansted
February 3, 2019 at 11:49 AM
I used your bacteria test kits in my classroom. I got positive test results with both types of bacteria with your kit. I have been having issues with orange growth in my fish aquarium. I also had a large water bowl with elodea plants in it. A film formed over the water and my plants deteriorated to slime. My plants are pitiful and stems die. When I break them off, they have orange liquid inside of them. My classroom has a bad odor often. I suffer from recurrent eye infections and I have had a sinus infection. My heating/cooling system gives off a bad odor on occasion. I complain and the custodians pour something in the toilets of the restrooms. Then my room smells better...????? The heating/cooling system blows very hard, non-stop. After a few months of complaining, I filed a notice with OSHA. Now, I am being mistreated by my boss.
Mark Timmons
February 3, 2019 at 2:55 PM
I am sorry for your problems. It sounds like you may have a couple of problems 1. Bacteria in the water as your bacteria tests indicated; and 2. Airborne bacteria. We can fix both, but will need additional information about your water in order to do so. We will need to see a detailed water analysis of your water like this: https://www.uswatersystems.com/us-water-watercheck-with-pesticides-lab-water-test.html It includes bacteria so it is expensive. Once we know exactly what is in the water, we can fix it and guarantee the results. Once that is done, if the air issues persist, we can fix that easily.