What Is Problem Water?
Some water contains troublesome elements or has characteristics which can make it very unpleasant to use or damaging to things that it touches. Among them are iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and acidity.
Iron typically rears its ugly head as rusty orange/brown stains, streaks or spots on clothing cleaned in a washing machine. Stains also appear on bathtubs, sinks and faucets. Even small amounts of iron can cause problems. Iron in concentrations as low as .3 parts per million can cause staining. And iron staining can be difficult to remove; cleaning may require special solvents. Iron can also clog pipes and damage the internal parts of water-using appliances. Iron is generally found in well water, although city water users are not immune from the problems associated with it.
Common home water conditioners can remove average amounts of dissolved iron from a family’s water supply. Multi-Stage Iron Removal Systems. When iron appears in excessive amounts, a specialized iron removal system may be required. Aeration equipment or chlorine can be used to change the dissolved iron into ferric iron, which is filterable. The ferric iron can then be removed by special automatic back washing filters, leaving the water clean and clear. In some cases, special filters can perform both the oxidation and filtration functions.
Chlorine is typically used by municipal water suppliers for disinfection, but it can dry skin and hair. Chlorine can also be inhaled in shower steam; some question the effects it has on the body. Chlorine can be easily removed by installing a carbon filtration system where the water enters the home. Combination systems that soften and dechlorinate water are also available and eliminate the need to purchase separate softening and filtration systems.
Hydrogen sulfide, although not a cause of staining, leaves water with an obnoxious “rotten egg” odor that makes it unbearable to drink, cook with or even bathe in. Because it is a weak acid, hydrogen sulfide can also promote corrosion. And its presence in the air causes silver to tarnish in seconds. High concentrations are flammable and can be poisonous. Luckily, hydrogen sulfide can be removed by first using aeration or chlorination to convert it into elemental sulfur, a yellowish powder that can be removed with filters. The process works similarly to that which is used to filter iron from water.
Acidity is another characteristic that can influence a family’s water supply. When water is acidic, it must be neutralized or it will cause corrosion of plumbing and fixtures, and could damage water-using appliances. A neutralizer containing calcite chips is often used to reduce water acidity. As water flows through the bed of calcite, the chips dissolve into the water and neutralize its acidity. They also add hardness minerals to the water, which can then be removed by a water conditioner.