How to Remove Iron, Manganese, Sulfur & Coliform from Well Water

Well water is the second most used source of water for domestic purposes in the US. Private well owners do not pay a monthly water bill, but when it comes to other costs like maintenance and hygiene of water they have to manage everything on their own. The most important of all is to ensure that they drink healthy and pure water. Well water, like city water, contains some pollutants that can make water unfit for drinking. It is imperative for all the well owners to know about common contaminants and how to remove them from water. Unlike city water, where it is the responsibility of the city government and EPA to ensure a safety standard for drinking water, well owners have to do everything themselves.

In this article, we will discuss how you can remove the following contaminants from well water.

  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Sulfur
  • Coliform

Let’s make your water safe for drinking and other uses!

Before we begin, let us tell you that it is your responsibility to get your water tested. You can either test your water at home using a water testing kit or collect a sample and get it tested from a lab. Make sure you collect the sample in a clean glass bottle and do not contaminate before or after collecting water. It is also recommended to collect the water sample from a tap located near the well.

Once you have the results with you, you can use the following guide to remove the contaminants mentioned above from your water.

How to Remove Iron from Well Water?

Iron Detection – Minnesota Department of Health states that you can easily spot marks of iron present in your well water. It gives a metallic taste and impacts the taste of food and beverage. Iron in water can cause yellow, red, or brown stains on dishes, washed clothes, and plumbing fixtures.

It can also lead to scale buildup in water pipes, showerheads, and aerators. Iron is so strong that if the water is contaminated in high proportions, it can turn your tea, coffee, and potatoes black or dark brown. It can also lead to clogging of water-related appliances, pumps, sprinklers, and pressure pump and storage tank of your well.

Iron may be present as ferrous iron (water is clear, but it turns red or brown after standing for a while), ferric iron (water is red or yellow when it comes out of faucet), organic iron (it can be yellow or colorless and is mostly present in shallow wells.

Removal Methods

Sediment Filters – Sediment filters can remove iron precipices from water. Most of the sediment filters are made of activated carbon. Carbon filters are excellent in removing iron, dirt, and debris from your water and it can also remove cloudiness from water.

Water Softener – Water softeners are systems that are used to remove hardness causing elements in your water, such as calcium and magnesium. You can also use a softening system to remove iron from well water if you use a salt that specializes in removing iron from water. You must do thorough research before selecting the salt, because if you end up with the wrong salt, you may not be able to remove iron from water. Water softeners may not be ideal for you if you are on a low sodium diet. The reason is that sodium ions are used to catch iron ions in water. As the iron ions are removed, they are replaced with sodium ions. Make sure you test your water again after installing a softener system to ensure that your salt is working fine.

Oxidation Filter – An oxidation filter is also a great option to remove iron from well water. Oxidation filters are able to remove arsenic, sulfur (rotten egg smell) from your water as well. Oxidation filters remove using chlorine and require periodic maintenance and replacement of filters. They are costly and must be installed by a professional.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration System – A reverse osmosis system uses a very fine membrane to remove a wide range of impurities from your water. It is so fine that it allows nothing but water to pass from it; still, some bacteria can make their way through it. It also removes minerals from water, which are needed by your body. RO filters wastewater during the process of filtration. They can waste around 3-4 gallons of water for every one gallon of filtered water. You can use this water for other purposes such as cleaning your home, gardening, washing your bikes and vehicles.

Iron Filtration Method – Specific filters are available in the market, which removes iron from well water. They are pretty good at iron removal, but the problem with them is that they are costly and only remove iron from water. We need to think about removing other impurities as well and keeping the spending on filtration appliances in check.

Iron Bacteria in Well Water and their Treatment

Iron bacteria use iron in your water to grow and reproduce. If you can remove iron from it, you can effectively remove iron bacteria as well. However, you can use chlorination to remove iron bacteria as well. You need to expose your well and the water inside it to a strong dose of chlorine. It will kill all the bacteria inside the water and the well. Chlorination results in a chlorine aftertaste and smell, which can be removed with the help of a carbon filter.

How to Remove Manganese from Well Water?

manganese in well water

Manganese Detection – Manganese is another common contaminant found in well water. Private well owners should focus on manganese removal because it is very harmful to babies, and extended exposure and consumption of high-level manganese can cause nerve problems in adults as well. EPA states that the safe level of manganese in water is 0.3mg/L (300 ug/L). If the levels go above this range, you may get to notice a brown color, odor, and an unpleasant taste in your water. The best way to assess the exact amount of manganese in your water is to get your water tested.

Manganese Removal

If you have installed the appliances for removing iron from water, they will also remove manganese from it. We will discuss the best set up to deal with all the contaminants in the water at the end of this article.

How to Remove Sulfur from Well Water?

Sulfur in well water

Sulfur Detection – The most common symptom of sulfur in water is the rotten egg smell. It is a usual problem with private well owners. Sometimes the sulfur bacteria (hydrogen sulfide) may not be present in water but in the plumbing fixtures of your home. Sometimes sulfur may only be present in hot water taps due to a faulty water heater, so you need to check the cold water tap as well.

Sulfur Removal

If you have concluded that sulfur is present in only cold water: rotten egg smell is coming only from cold water. You can apply the following techniques to get rid of it.

  • Add some Chlorine Bleach
  • Install a Chlorinator and a Carbon Filter
  • Iron Removal Filter
  • Aeration Removal Method
  • Use Ozone Gas

How to Remove Coliform from Well Water?

Coliform in well water

Coliform Detection – Coliform is a common bacteria found in well water, and unlike other contaminants, it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. The only way to know about its presence in well water is to test for it. There are 3 different types of coliform bacteria in water, and they are listed below

  1. Total Coliforms – They are commonly found in soil and in water, which has been exposed to human and animal feces. Since animals roam around openly near wells, their feces can contaminate the soil around wells. As a result, the bacteria can seep in your water.
  2. Fecal Coliforms – As the name indicates, they are present specifically in the fecal matter of warm-blooded animals.
  3. Escherichia coli (E.coli) – It is the major species of bacteria to be found in the animal fecal matter. E.coli is the major indicator of the presence of bacteria in water.

To know more about testing bacteria in water, you can read: How to Test Well Water for Bacteria and Pesticides

Coliform Removal

Following are the best ways to remove coliform bacteria from well water

Chlorination – Chlorine is used by municipal water treatment centers to ensure that it is properly disinfected and all the bacteria, including the above mentioned 3 types of coliform bacteria are killed. You can get help from disinfection companies; they don’t charge you too much and will add chlorine in the right amount according to the specification of your well and the volume of water in your well.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration System – You can also use a RO system to get rid of a majority of bacteria in water. The RO membrane does not allow anything bigger than water molecules to pass through it. However, bacteria that are smaller than an H2O molecule can squeeze past it. A RO system needs filter replacement once the prescribed time of use is over.

UV Light Sterilization – The final and most effective protection against all types of bacteria, including coliform bacteria, is UV light filtration. It contains a UV bulb that kills all the bacteria and other microorganisms in the water and makes it safe and healthy for drinking. You need to replace the UV bulb every 1-2 years.


Which is the best water testing kit for well water?

Varify’s water testing kit is one of the best currently available to test your water at home. It can test your water for 16 different parameters, including lead, iron, bacteria, fluoride, and many more.

Which is the best filter for removing iron and manganese from well water?

If your water has iron and manganese in it, you can deal with these two contaminants with one filter. Install Pro+Aqua’s single filter with a flow rate of 12 GPM and a 5-year warranty.

What is the most effective way to make my water chlorine-free?

Chlorination, RO filtration, and UV light are the most effective ways to get your water bacteria-free. If you want a hassle-free solution to the bacteria problem, it is better to go with a RO water filter with UV light. Such machines do need periodic filter replacement, but it is easier to manage than chlorinators.

Is it necessary to hire a company for drilling a well?

A few states allow DIY drilling while others don’t. So, if you are planning to drill a well yourself, make sure you check the local laws before doing it.

Final Word – The Best Setup

Private well owners often ask one single question: what is the best setup to ensure that they get to drink pure, healthy water and simultaneously make it safe for plumbing and home appliances. The answer to this question lies in three things:

Periodic chlorination – Periodic chlorination will help kill all the bacteria in water, such as iron bacteria, sulfur bacteria, and confirms, along with a lot of other microorganisms. You need to add chlorine in the water. You must be thinking about the smell and taste of chlorine in the water. We have a solution for it too, hang on!

Water Softener – Use a water softener to remove hardness, causing elements in the water. If you put in specific salts that can remove iron and manganese from water, it will be equally successful against them. Water softeners are installed just after the water enters your home or when it leaves the storage tank of your well. Water softening salts add a lot of sodium in water. You would have to deal with it as well.

RO filter with UV light and Re-mineralization Stage – The next and final appliance to be added is an RO filter with a UV light and a re-mineralization stage. A RO filter consists of 5-7 different filtration media, which remove 99.9 percent of contaminants from water, a UV light will kill all the bacteria, and a re-mineralization stage will add the necessary healthy minerals back to your water. It will also remove excess sodium, chlorine taste, and smell added to your water by a water softener and chlorination. The best place to install this filter is under your kitchen sink, so you can get pure water for drinking, cooking, and washing your eatables.

Since well owners do not have to pay for a monthly water bill, they can easily afford all the above-mentioned machines to get pure and healthy water for drinking purposes. You will also get soft water to be used in water-related appliances by using the above-mentioned setup.


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