Iron is one of the minerals
commonly found in the drinking water supply. It is harmless, but it may
cause red or brown stains on clothes and household fixtures. Under EPA
guidelines for public water supplies, iron is considered a secondary
contaminant. Secondary contaminants are those that may cause offensive
taste, odor, color, corrosion, foaming, or staining, yet have no
unhealthy effects on your health. The standard acceptable level for iron
is 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L or ppm).
There are four forms of iron commonly found in drinking water supplies:
ferrous, ferric, organic and iron bacteria. Water freshly drawn from the
cold water tap will normally appear clear. If yours doesn’t, it may
contain either ferric iron or organic iron, both of which will discolor
the water. Ferric iron precipitates, while organic iron will remain in
suspension. Ferrous iron, most commonly found in well water, is formed
by conversion from insoluble iron oxide. It is colorless until exposed
to air, but upon contact with oxygen, it will rapidly oxidize and create
red or brown particles, which will precipitate as ferric oxide.
The presence of iron in your water should not necessarily cause you to
be concerned about a health problem. Small concentrations of iron, in
fact, are essential to human health. High concentrations, however, can
give your water a metallic taste, even though it is still safe to drink.
Other effects are an inky discoloration when combined with coffee, tea
or alcohol, and darkening of some vegetables, such as potatoes, when
cooked in water with a high iron content.
Harmless bacteria, called iron bacteria, can also form where water
contains high concentrations of iron. This bacteria can cause
discoloration of your laundry, and can clog your water system. Iron
bacteria may be white, red or brown, and will have a stringy, mucousy
appearance. If the inside of your toilet tank is so discolored, you
probably have high iron content in your water supply.
There are a number of different water treatment technologies available
which will remove iron from your water supply, along with other
contaminants that may be present. If your laundry is discolored, your
fixtures have red or brown stains or you are finding iron bacteria
growth in your system, you would do well to consider installing such a
treatment system for your water supply.
Effects of Iron in Your Water Supply
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