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The Facts on Iron Bacteria

Posted: June 2, 2010

Since iron is a very common mineral found in the ground, iron bacteria is fairly common in ground water wells. Iron bacteria can cause problems for your water and the water system itself.

What is iron bacteria?

It is a type of bacteria that feed on small amounts of iron in water. Since iron is a very common mineral found in the ground, iron bacteria is fairly common in ground water wells.

What problems can it cause?

Iron bacteria can cause problems for your water and the water system itself. It can become a nuisance to the homeowner when it produces gelatinous strands, masses, or thin films that plug pipes, toilets plumbing fixtures and even the well itself. Iron bacteria often colonizes in the well, coating the walls of the casing with the slimy mass. If the problem progresses, water flow from the well can actually be reduced.
Is iron bacteria a health concern? No, iron bacteria do not cause any concerns to human health, but the problems to the water system may be significant enough to require treatment.

Can you test your water for iron bacteria?

Water is very rarely tested for iron bacteria since very few certified laboratories conduct the test. Confirmation is usually based on visual symptoms in the water, including the slimy brown/red appearance (often most noticeable in the toilet tank) and a slight musty odor. There are no drinking water standards for iron bacteria since there are no health implications. However, treatment is available if it becomes a nuisance to your family or reduces the water flow into your home.

How do you treat iron bacteria?

The best way to treat iron bacteria is inside the well itself since that is where it originates and colonizes. If caught in the early stages, periodic shock chlorination of the well can sometimes take care of the problem. If the problem is severe, a professional well driller may be able to provide assistance (including installation of a chlorine pellet dropper on the well).