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Neutralizing water system for well water

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by BucksCounty, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. BucksCounty

    BucksCounty Feeling the Heat

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    Moved into the house little over 2 years ago. The neutralizing system was replaced because it didn't pass inspection and previous owner didn't maintain. The water company people said to have them replace the mixture inside the nuetralizing tank every 1.5-2 years. You can see it is about 1/2 filled in the 1st pic. So, here are my questions.
    1. Is it time to replace the mixture in the tank even though it is half full?
    2. Is this something I can do on my own?
    3. Where can I get the mixture? Local hardware store?
    4. Can I just fill to the top with new mixture or do I need to empty the tank first?

    water2.jpg water1.jpg

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  2. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    This is an acid neutralizer, correct? If so, you just add calcite to the tank. It's not really a mixture, it's just calcium carbonate in granular form. I don't think you'll find it at most hardware stores. The big box stores will probably have it. At half full, it should continue to work, but it's getting close to time to top it off (2/3 to 3/4 full).

    How's the hardness of your water? Acid neutralizers add hardness to water. Around here we are blessed with water that is often both hard and acidic. The vast majority of acid neutralizer installations around here need a water softener as well.

    BTW, you should be able to do this on your own. A wet vac makes it much easier. Bypass the unit or shut off the main valve and relieve the pressure. Now use the wet vac as you remove the plug to catch any water. Suck enough water out of the tank to make room for the calcite. Pour the calcite in, replace the plug and turn the water back on.
  3. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    When I bought my house the neutralizer was not maintained. I took it to a local water testing / softening / **** you place to have it refilled. They did, tried to sell me their service plan, and told me my tank was only rated for (I believe) 20 years of service and it was on year 18. Anyway, when they refilled it I believe there was also pebbles (or something similar) that was added in with the calcite. I believe that helped to keep the calcite loose during the backflush process as it is possible for the calcite to solidify into a mass that is worthless and hard to remove from the tank.

    That was 5 years ago, tank hasn't blown up (yet) and I've simply added calcite to it up to 3/4's full each year since.

    I also remember them asking if I had an inline sediment filter before the neutralizer.

    pen
  4. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    This kind of neutralization system is simplicity itself. If the water is acid it will dissolve the calcium carbonate. Once it has passed over enough of the material that it is no longer acid it won't dissolve anything more.

    They told me to keep it between 2/3 and 1/2 full. If it gets too low there won't be sufficient surface area left to do the job.

    Go online to find the best price. 100lbs should last for years, just pour it on top of the old stuff, calcium carbonate is calcium carbonate. Back flushing should keep it from caking up and remove any particulate that has accumulated.

    Interestingly, when I installed my system a couple months ago I added a pre-filter, something I had never had before.
    Anyway I had to refill the storage tank for the boiler (1200 gallons) After a while I noticed the flow was very low and started fussing with the neutralizer, back flushing using the bypass etc. Finally I looked at the pre-filter a saw a whole bunch of junk. After I back flushed the pre-filter (its a vortex style) I had full flow again.
    I never realized how much crap there was in my water till then. That probably explains the clogged shower heads.
  5. BucksCounty

    BucksCounty Feeling the Heat

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    Yes, this is for acidic water. Last year the water was tested perfect (long story but the guy from company came out free of charge to explain everything. That was when he said I should use their "special" mixture. I recall him saying they were granulars). I asked about softener and he said it wasn't necessary, just a personal preference. I can live without it. Thanks everyone for the input. Looks like I will do this on my own. Rovert, thanks for the tip on the wet vac.

    The backflushing is set for twice a week. Should I keep at that, or move to once a week?
  6. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Can someone give a ballpark price of what one of these neutralizers for acidic water would cost? (Purchased, not installed).

    I think I should have one - pending another water test. Just wondering what to expect cost wise. A side concern is what to do with the flushing discharge water - I suspect it shouldn't go in your septic tank/field?
  7. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    You'll probably be looking at $700 to $1000. Most do backwash into the septic system. If you have a marginal drain field, you may not want to add the extra water.

    BC- I would install a sediment filter before the acid neutralizer. I've had to tear several of these apart to unclog them despite being backwash models. It is definitely a good idea to pre-filter the water.
  8. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    I just installed one 2 months ago cost me $700 for the unit and prefilter and another $100 for valves, "T's" and fittings. Took me about 3 hours but I work slow. Water treatment company wanted $1700 for the same setup. Wanted to run out and buy something with my savings but the wife wouldn't let me. :(
    I was very happy with this company so here is a shameless plug http://www.cleanwaterstore.com/acid-neutralizer.html

    Most people send the backwash to the nearest drain, if you do, you should install a backflow preventor. I was too far away so I just drilled a hole through the sill and stuck a hose outside into the garden. We'll see how that works when it freezes.
    I think its about 20-30 gallons (5 minutes) there is nothing toxic, its the same water you are drinking just pushed backwards to take out any sediment and fluidize the media.
  9. BucksCounty

    BucksCounty Feeling the Heat

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    Yep, 1700 is almost exactly how much it was that the seller had to pay. The receipt was actually $1692. Hence the reason I don't want to allow this thing to go unmaintained again! Mine backfilters into a drain and goes into septic system.There is no were for it to empty except that drain to septic. I wonder if I could have it empty into the sump? Mine backwashes for close to a half hour. I didn't notice anything to set the length of time it flushes.
  10. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    $1700 seems a little high. The last one I installed was just under $1400. It would be fine to dump it into a sump pump pit. I would also imagine that you could get away with one backwash per week. Normal backwash time aren't coming to mind right now, but a half hour seems a little long per backwash. I still strongly recommend a sediment filter before the acid neutralizer.
  11. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    The company that I worked with suggested I back flush every 3rd day.

    pen
  12. XJma

    XJma Member

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    I wouldn't discharge the backwash into a regular septic, it will basically negate the positive benefits of your holding tank (removing harmful bacteria and converting nitrogen into less harmful forms that can be broken down naturally) and turn your system into an old cesspool, just discharging un-treated human waste into the ground. Then there is also the theoretical possibility that the excess CaCO3 may crystallize in the leaching field and clog up the sand beds. It is definitely possible and I've seen CaCO3 cause huge problems albeit not from a neutralizer discharging to a septic.

    I would drill the sill and have it discharge to like a PVC or corrugated plastic pipe, if you wanted to get fancy make a little gravity-fed dry well with a large diameter feed pipe so if you get freezing issues, it's not like you'll ever have a full pipe of water so it can't crack or block it.

    The softener isn't necessary, more or less so depending on the water in your area you're starting with, but it is a nice thing to have. If you're clogging shower heads all the time and/or worse, I'd price it out and weigh the benefits.
  13. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    Please back that up with some sort of scientific evidence. The water discharged from the backwash cycle of an acid neutralizer is the same stuff that comes out of the faucets with a bit of sediment. There is nothing in there, other than calcium carbonate, that didn't come right out of the well. I think that the millions of working septic systems that deal with water much harder than what comes out of an acid neutralizer are evidence enough that your statement is untrue.

    I suppose excessive scale could be an issue, but it's a long shot. I think the well water would have to be of exceptionally high hardness to start with.
    nate379, Highbeam and pen like this.
  14. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The backwash from this neutralizer would not hurt the septic, the extra water is an extra load on the septic though. I have designed septic systems and reducing the amount of liquid makes your drainfield that much more capable of handling the load. I look at every reduction of water, even clean water, to the septic system as a success.

    Dump the backwash water from anything to the storm system, surface, or city sewer. The sump pump should go to the same place, not a sewer, so sump pit can work but since the backwash water is pressurized I would sure find a way to get it to your downspout system.
  15. XJma

    XJma Member

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    dumping tons of caco3 into a septic is not good. I'm a hydrogeologist with a series 4 wastewater treatment operators license. I don't know everything about wastewatetr systems but I do know that the discharge is not going to be good for it. It may not clog the soil absorption system up (although it theoretically could, caco3 would precipitate when it hits sand beds, seen it happen in other circumsttances) but it will reduce or shut down the ability of the septic tank to clean up the influent before discharging it. If you don't drink the water nearby or have a really deep bedrock well, probably doesn't matter to you. If you do have a shallow well then you should care.
  16. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    I'm still waiting for that scientific explanation. Don't worry, I can handle it. While no longer directly in the scientific community, I do have a B.S. in Biology, fisheries management. I've got some water chemistry background. I may have to push away a few cobwebs but I'll figure it out.

    The most valid reason for not piping an acid neutralizer's discharge into a septic system is preventing the system from not having to deal with more waste water than necessary. At backwash rates and cycles that will typically equate to a few extra showers a week, this is likely not a big deal for most drain fields.

    Second, comes the possibility of scale build up. I've seen some significant build up in sewer lines within homes, usually directly below a constantly leaking toilet. I've rarely seen any scale build up in sewer laterals or septic systems. Treating water that is already hard with an acid neutralizer, may cause some scale problems in the drain lines/ septic tank. I've never witnessed this, though.

    I don't see any validity in the idea that acid neutralizer discharge will shut down the anaerobic activity that breaks down the waste within a septic tank. I would love to see the scientific theory that supports this. Then I would really love to see evidence of an actual case where it happened.

    Actually, now that I think about it isn't a septic tank's pH supposed to be neutral? That would mean that, in theory, the septic tank (or bacteria within) would be more effective after the installation of an acid neutralizer, even when dumping that evil discharge in, than it would before the acid neutralizer was installed.
  17. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    My question is, how different is the water that comes out the backwash compared to the water that goes to the faucet after being neutralized?
  18. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Tons of caco3? From topping up that small tank in the first pic every couple of years?

    First thought is, only a few pounds are added every couple of years, so how does it become tons out? Second thought is, out of the few pounds that are added every couple of years, how many get pushed out when flushing? As to what caco3 does to or in a septic tank & field - I have no idea.
  19. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    None.

    The average houshold might go through 50 lbs of calcium carbonate (limestone) in a year. Backwash is once a week so maybe 5% of the 50 lbs is from backwashing. Can't see how that would impact anything.
  20. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    That was my thought. In the scheme of things, a small percentage of the total water used by the house is used during the backwash cycle. If the water is the same, then there shouldn't be much of any difference and if there is a problem, so long as it's not due to the extra water, it would have occurred regardless.

    My backwash goes to the ditch out of convenience.

    pen
  21. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    Don't make the mistake I made. Calcite is only effective for slightly acidic water, depending on how acidic your water is, you may need a stronger agent. NS Mix is more effective, and adds less hardness to the water. It is more expensive, but it also lasts longer.

    When we moved in, the neutralizer was completely empty. I added calcite and continued to get pinhole leaks in the copper, and the acidity ate through the sacrificial anode on a water heater in 2 or 3 years. After the disaster of a water heater rusting through, I switched to NS mix and haven't had a problem since.

    Refilling and maintaining the system yourself is easy, finding a retail supplier of calcite or NS Mix at a reasonable cost is not. I finally found a company, APR supply that usually has some bags in stock, or can get it in a few days. Website says they have a place in Feasterville.

    TE
  22. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    This is what the place I dealt with said. I got the 90/10 mix. the Corosex is supposed to be 5x as active as straight calcite. My water is currently 7.4 so I guess its working.

    Calcite media if your pH is 6.0 to 6.9

    • Calcite-Corosex blend media if your pH is less than 6.0

    Read more: http://www.cleanwaterstore.com/acid-neutralizer.html#ixzz2FKCokUEl
  23. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    What is NS? Is is potash, sodium hydroxide? Must be a stronger base.

    The septic tank pH can range from 6 to 9 before the digestion process is upset. The actual pH in the tank is usually nearly neutral under normal residential conditions. The calcite that is absorbed into the water sytem at the neutralizer brings the pH of acidic raw water up to neutral and then the reaction is at equilibrium. If you were to expose this neutralized water to highly corrosive water, the caclite may fall out of solution but since we know that the wastestream is a neutral pH we know that this is not going to happen from the septic tank on out.

    The sky is not falling, overloading the septic from additional water is a more likely scenario. So many drainfields are already overloaded.
  24. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    From the cleanwater site:

    Q. What is Corosex?

    A. Corosex® (by Clack) is a highly reactive magnesium oxide, and is used most effectively where pH correction is substantial or high flow conditions are in use. Corosex can be effectively combined with Clack Calcite to combine the high flow neutralization properties of Corosex,along with the slower reacting low flow properties of Calcite, reducing potentially high basic properties due to over correction.


    Q. What is the advantage of Corosex?

    A. On a per weight basis, magnesium oxide can neutralize much more acidity than can calcium carbonate, (five timesas much). This results in greatly reduced chemical usage for the same pH correction. Please note, under certain low flowconditions, Corosex may overcorrect andcreate a highly basic (high pH) condition. It is better to use it in a 90% calcite to 10% Corosex or 80% calcite to 20% blend

    Read more: http://www.cleanwaterstore.com/filter-media-calcite.html#ixzz2FLNKXBrN
  25. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    I "tested" my NS mix against overdosing by adding a teaspoon to 50mls of raw water, shaking the heck out of it and leaving for 24 hours, the resulting water was still only 7.5.
    My remaining problem is that the tank is still half full of regular calcite, and there is no easy way to empty it manually. Adding the NS mix to the top means that I am only very slowly consuming the calcite, so still not getting full efficiency from the tank. If I had to do it again, I would have emptied all the calcite before adding NS mix.

    TE

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