Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Well Water Dynamics

CaptainPike - 27-4-2016 at 08:59

I understand that a common remedy to the occasionally "funky smelling" domestic water from an artesian well is to add a gallon or two of bleach. I was told to wait 24 hours after doing this, then run the water, everywhere, until I smell bleach, and then, run it out on the ground, by means of a long hose, until it's clear.

I had always thought that the smell was hydrogen sulfides from geo-sources in the earth – such as those from the hot springs found in many places in the world. In fact, I used to "never mind the smell", thinking this gas was possibly good for the skin etc. Then, when my learned friend told me the smell came from rotting biological matter I was less inclined to tolerate this not-so-nice odor. I went ahead and poured a large jug of Walmart bleach (8.25% sodium hypochlorite) down the well. We ran the water. Then we ran the water some more – not even a hint of the bleach smell was evident.

I assume that the reason that it was recommended to drain a healthy excess of the, thus treated water on the ground was that a lot of water containing sodium hypochlorite might not be good for the septic system– might kill the bacterial action. Whereas pouring the large quantity of this water out on the ground in the sunshine would be less environmentally detrimental. But still, I smell not the least trace of the hypochlorite in the water. This was a couple of days ago.

Today, I noticed that the bathtub, being filled with warm water definitely showed a faintly yellowish color. While still there is no smell of bleach, the water has a faint, almost salty, or hydroxyl-ish taste to it. Could the bleach be complexing with iron in the water, or something? This taste I mention his after filtration in my simple Brita carafe/filter.

I suppose I should just run the water (as recommended) and not continue to consume it. Any ideas what's going on here? I know, I know – take a bath every day, right?

arkoma - 27-4-2016 at 09:21

You oughta see some of the damned wells here in Ark-In-Saw. I have poured hypochlorite down more than one. I use the "pool grade", not laundry bleach. Some bleach nowadays has NaOH in it, and often (the cheap stuff) is iron contaminated. The pool grade works great for boiling down into NaClO3 too.

XeonTheMGPony - 27-4-2016 at 09:59

H2S can be bacterial iron eating, or Hydrocarbon sourced. By the sounds of post treatment you have iron eating bacteria with an iron source

More comes out when the water is warm.

It can be treated with ozone or bleach or even bubbled air in a standing tank befor being sent to the house.

Pouring the bleach in the well is a bad idea as it damages the wire and pipe over time and is a waste, as it is only a temporary measure NOT permanent.

You need a manganese green sand system for long term treatment, or a bleach injection/air injection tank if not the pot-perm/green sand

I worked for 5 years in water treatment well pumps so I am very familiar with this issue. You need to draw a water sample and have a test don once all the bleach byproducts have been removed from the system, then you can design an appropriate treatment set up.

[Edited on 27-4-2016 by XeonTheMGPony]

Chemist_Cup_Noodles - 27-4-2016 at 10:05

Hm, this is quite interesting. I'm not super familiar with wells, even though when I was a small child our house used well water. But how big is the well that you've added bleach to? I surely wouldn't think that it's big enough to immediately dilute a 8.25% solution to the few ppm that it would need to be to not smell at all. I briefly tried to find at about what concentration the classic "bleach smell" is evident but couldn't seem to. But I'd assume that the minimum would be somewhere in the low ppm as it is for many substances that often smell strongly. So it's possible to rule out extensive dilution as a reason for lack of smell.

Now this (I'm assuming) new yellow tint to your water is definitely a concern. Hypochlorite is not a very stable molecule, so in solution it tends to decompose over time to form simpler ions such as chloride and hydroxide. And also considering that the reason a small concentration of sodium hydroxide to bleach is to stabilize the hypochlorite more, it's likely that once you added the bleach to your well, it sufficiently diluted the sodium hydroxide enough to longer be able to stabilize it, and it began decomposing. This would lower the concentration of hypochlorite, and reduce it's smell. When sodium hypochlorite decomposes in water it forms Na+, Cl-, and two OH- ions. So if theoretically one mole completely decomposes, there is only one mole of sodium cation to react with three moles of anions. This would leave two moles of anions to react with your pipes, and so if you have iron (or god forbid lead) pipes, it could corrode your pipes lending the yellowish color, and salty/ hydroxyl taste as you described.

Just to be safe I'd go down to your local hardware store and see what all kinds of water testing kits they have if you're lacking some. If you do have some, use them now. I'd think you should test pH and alkalinity especially. This could shed more light on what exactly is going on with your water.

XeonTheMGPony - 27-4-2016 at 10:17

Yellow tint will be the oxidation of the trace iron that the bacteria been eating or sulfur compounds, He'd need to test to see what it is, but average is the iron.

CaptainPike - 27-4-2016 at 13:26

Wow, thanks for the good info. I can't believe I didn't even UTFSE – probably the stomach cancer has metastasized in my brain already… tiny clusters!!

I did this, because last year, my-carpenter-and-caretaker-and-good-friends-little-brother did it for me, and the water tasted great all last winter. I'm not doubting the analytical skill of the many good responses I got here – just know this guy is a practical gem :-)

Most of the piping is pex (I've frozen up the pipes a couple of times), and I expect it is nonmetallic coming from the well. I don't know the volume of the well, but it is capable of delivering a massive 30 gallons per minute. I hardly use any water – that's one of the problems. But I don't really like the idea of voluntarily contaminating my own water supply, and then running it out in the yard, even if it might be only once a year. And, I hadn't thought about damaging the wiring – going down in its pure (or at least around 8%) until it does hit the water, so there's that. And I don't like the idea of a bunch of negatively charged radicals floating around down there in the dark, chewing at iron or attaching themselves to who knows what.

As a matter of fact, I'm feeling a little nauseous right now! As you may garner, I might tend toward hypochondriasm (one of my many, isms)a little. So downstairs I have a little sequence of particle filters. First 30 µ followed by 5 µ, but that's it. I like the idea of having a nice, natural water supply… but longevity supersedes. It would be dumb to not have my water tested. And I think I will just run some out, for a while, as my buddy recommended. Probably take a sample first, then let her rip for a while. Take another sample.

I'm going to re-read through the many recommendations – I was really surprised all the good traffic I got. I have posted some things here that I thought were pretty interesting, and I was beginning to think they might all be private or something, LOL.

I suppose when a person poses a real-life, practical problem whose solution (so to speak) is likely a chemistry one, to a panel of experts, one will get some good feedback. So thank you, and feel free to ruminate, augment, speculate, pontificate…

arkoma - 27-4-2016 at 14:09

there is always gallon jugs of spring water for drinking--tap water for everything else. My friends house where I am at right now is horrible iron infested water--they DAMN sure don't drink it. Also, high iron water will kill most zeolite catalyst (as found in a water softener) beds QUICKLY. Xeon is right--greensand. As far as the 3 conductor wiring going to the submersible pump, that insulation is TOUGH. Has to be.

chemrox - 27-4-2016 at 15:24

You must determine the source of the "smell" before anyone can suggest a remedy. It would help to have a copy of the well log! If you dig one up (sorry) send it to me and I'll tell you the most likely source.

XeonTheMGPony - 27-4-2016 at 17:34

Quote: Originally posted by arkoma  
there is always gallon jugs of spring water for drinking--tap water for everything else. My friends house where I am at right now is horrible iron infested water--they DAMN sure don't drink it. Also, high iron water will kill most zeolite catalyst (as found in a water softener) beds QUICKLY. Xeon is right--greensand. As far as the 3 conductor wiring going to the submersible pump, that insulation is TOUGH. Has to be.

One job I remember well was a Well fire!, the well caught fire due to the bleach damaged wires arcing out and setting the H2S on fire, the pipe was so damaged from the bleach too the supply pipe crumbled, Thank GOAT they used a SS cable for the teather!

The wire is great to use for out door under ground wiring! that damned well was 350 feet deep and we had to hand pull it :( as most wells are remote and a pain to get to on rocky hills.

I personally Use an Ozone system in reaction vessel that then feeds to a sand bed system as it oxidizes out the iron, h2s, the rest is removed by RO.

Metsorb is the proprietary Arsenic removal system.

macckone - 27-4-2016 at 18:11

Lots of good systems on the market for removing just about any contaminant. A settling tank and a diatomaceous earth filter will remove particulates. Then various other treatments can be applied in front of more traditional home systems like ion exchange resin. They also have home chlorination units and anything else you can imagine.