Iron Algae and more in well : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Hello everyone, We have iron algae in our well water. Lots of it. Enough to make the toilet tanks bubbly with pink slime. Lately our pump, we think, has been getting clogged by this algae. Is there anything we can do? We have clorinated but that is so toxic, even when you flush it out. My husband wants to dump chlorox in the well every weekend for months to try to get the algae to die and drop. He is not flushing the well, so all that chlorinated water comes in the house. I feel like we are getting poisoned!!! And I think it is the water table that has the algae, not just our well, so it keeps growing back. Of course, we don't drink this water. The water is also very soft, is salty, and has bubbles like a gas is emptying in the well (we tried to light the bubbles because we thought it was methane, but it's not!). We have never been able to get an OK from the county to drink it. It always tests positive for Coliform. should we move??? p.s. we tried drilling another well on another side of the property but the water is the same! Help! Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, October 02, 2000


We have a hand dug well that has algae in it. Not uncommon in springs and old wells used for water source,I was told. It was suggested by health dept. environmentalist that we could put a pool float with slow release clorine capsule in it, which we did. Then filter the chlorine out. Another option is an ozonator, this is more expensive. Just some thoughts.

-- Sharon Wt (, October 02, 2000.

Another thought-if you have iron bacteria diff thing but same solution, but not coliform. We had iron bacteria at another place, orange slim on everything. We were told it is introduced by the drilling rig. Good chlorination is the control. Again this is not coliform bacteria.

-- Sharon WT (, October 02, 2000.

Ok our water sounds a little like this .We have orangish / brownish discoloration in the water and everthing else !Pool shock does clear it .Should we use pool tablets in a float ? Ours is a shallow dug well .We were thinking of putting in a new one. Thanks and sorry to butt in on your thread .

-- Patty Gamble (, October 02, 2000.

It sounds like the well was just dug/drilled until they hit water at a shallow depth. Chances are it is from surface run-off, rather than a deep stream which has traveled a long distance, purifying itself. The need to frequently clorinate could also be due to a well pipe improperly sealed.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 03, 2000.

Our well is 175 foot deep, so I don't know where the algae is coming from, unless there is a leak in the pipe as Ken says. With all the water problems we are having, the least of which is that it tastes awful, I guess we need to call an "expert" in. I was hoping to not have to do that. Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, October 03, 2000.

There is an "iron bacteria" that lives on the iron in the water. It gets its energy for living by taking apart the molecule that the iron is part of. I ran into this once in an industrial setting and it was very desctructive because of the pluggage the slime and sediment caused. This orange gunk is actually huge numbers of the bacteria, colored by what they "ate". Our only partly successful solution was to chlorinate the heck out of the well and to use other chemicals as well. It wasn't a drinking water well though, so the chemicals weren't for use in drinking water. This problem is probably a function of the iron content of the water and not something that moving over and drilling another well will help. I believe the iron bacteria are naturally occurring in some areas and are not something that has contaminated your well.

-- txcountry girl (, October 03, 2000.

I don't know if iron algae and iron bacteria are the same-they sound alike by your description. Iron bacteria has an odor like fuel oil or diesel fuel, or sometimes swampwater. It is unpleasant but harmless: not so for coliform and I don't have any advice for that. Here's what the DNR told us to do for iron bacteria (a naturally occurring condition here). For our 200 foot well with a 6 inch casing we got 6 gallons of household bleach.(Hilex, Clorox, etc.) The cheapest kind, not the smell-good stuff. Turn off the pump at the breaker, take off the well cover, pour all the bleach down the casing, splashing it on the sides without splashing it on you. Turn the pump back on and run ALL the faucets until you smell the bleach, turn off faucets. That will assure clean pipes. Then connect a hose to the faucet closest to the well pipe. Put the other end of the hose down the well casing a little way and turn on the water. This will flush the bleachwater through your system and back into the well. Continue this for about 20 minutes. You can even swab down the inside of the casing if you can get to it. Shut off the faucet, cover the well and turn off the pump again. You will have to let your well sit idle for about 24 hours for the bleach to really do its job. Then turn on the pump and BEFORE you open any faucets in the house, run the hose like you did before but with the end on the ground this time, as far away from the well as you can get it. I know you are putting bad stuff on the ground but this is what the DNR told us to do. When that water smells fresh, turn that off and open the house faucets one at a time until they are clear. The water coming out will be orange and ugly! But the resulting water will be clean and beautifully clear. We have to do this every other year or so. Sorry this was so long, but I didn't want to skip anything important.

-- Peg (NW WI) (, October 03, 2000.

I have to clarify that "closest to the well" thing. It should be the OUTSIDE faucet closest to where the water enters the house.

-- Peg (NW WI) (, October 03, 2000.

Yes, we have clorinated in this same way also. We have even used pool shock which is a higher concentration of chlorine, and still can't pass the coliform test. Our algae is pink and bubbly. It doesn't smell. I think that this problem is something in the water table, because with the high concentrations of chlorine it just doesn't go away. Unless it's a bad pipe. Thanks for all the help, Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, October 03, 2000.

Mary, what Peg said is correct; I'd just add that when you run water back into the well with the hose, run it down the sides of the casing. You also may have to run it down the side of the casing for longer than twenty minutes, to kill the bacteria. This should kill iron bacteria. I've never heard of "iron algae".

If the problem is iron bacteria in the well, and not the aquifer, this should work. Even if there is iron in your water, you won't get this slime if the bacteria are dead.

It is also possible that there are bacteria near your well in the aquifer. If you can fill a large tank with water, like a water storage tank, clorinate the water in the tank at the same time you clorinate the well, then add the water from the tank to the well as rapidly as possible. like through a two inch pipe. This will put positive pressure on the clorinated water in the well, forcing it back into the aquifer a ways, and killing bacteria there.

If you still have trouble, I recommend talking to a local well driller, pump installer, or dept. of public health. There may also be a water purification company, e.g. "Culligan Man", who can give you advice.

I know one solution which has worked for some people is an automatic chlorinator, with a backflushing activated carbon filter. The cost : very high. I bought on on a rental eightish years ago for $1650 more or less.

Good luck!


-- jumpoffjoe (, October 03, 2000.

When selling one house the water failed county tests and had to be clorinated. However, the well was in a roofed offer pit I had moved over numerous times and never knew it was there. Since the pit had to be opened, county code required the casing to be extended above ground. Still couldn't pass test. Agent referred me to a plumber who guaranteed it would pass next time. He used crushed swimming pool tablets and shocked the heck out of it using the procedures above. However, he also gave me a 6', I think, 1/2" copper pipe length with a female garden hose fitting on the end. Part of the backflushing required inserting this alongside the casing as far down as possible, which was all the way, all the way around, injecting the heavily clorinated water into the soil around the new casing connection. It worked.

If a profession well digger thinks the casing have cracked or was improperly installed, I think it can be pulled out and a new casing installed. If it is in the aquaifer, an expensive filtering system may be your only alternative.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 04, 2000.

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. Especially about running the chlorinated water down the pipe for 20 minutes and into the ground around the pipe. We're going to try it. I have to still solve the other problems, the water is so bad tasting. We are thinking about getting a UV system, or another such "whole house" filtering system. Any recommendations? I may just make that a separate question on the forum. Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, October 04, 2000.

Again, talk to a water purification company - Culligan Man, or whatever. Maybe an ozone generator would work, which would require a tank, but would not use chlorine. An ultraviolet might kill bacteria, but doubtful if it would get rid of iron.

-- jumpoffjoe (, October 04, 2000.

Do you have a company in your area that tests water for mining companies? That's who we had do our water test for bacteria & minerals. They were the most informative abt bacteria iron, as well. Our company also installed outfits other than carbon filtered ones so they were more knowledgeable than culligan. For bacteria they had a clorinationation unit for abt $300 with a storage tank needed, also. Water must sit in clorine for 40 minutes is what I remember him explaining. They also had ozonator. I do not remember price, but I thought it was around $700.

-- Sharon WT (KY) (, October 06, 2000.

I just sent off today for a complete water test. It costs $149 and they will tell me just about everything about my water. Then we can go from there. We are thinking of getting a filter to get the big stuff out and then a UV system. I just wish there was a way to find out what the final product will taste like! Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, October 06, 2000.

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