Why is Treating Acidic Well Water Important?
The pH of well water is determined by the amount and type of dissolved salts and minerals it contains. These minerals enter the well water by leaching out of the surrounding rocks and soil.
Acidic well water that’s below pH 7 is caused by excessive dissolved carbon dioxide, lack fo calcium or mining / industrial runoff. Acidity in water can also be caused by water that percolates through decaying vegetation. Low pH well water will lead to a host of problems around your house, including corrosion and metal contamination.
The opposite of that is high pH water – which is a less common issue in households. Alkaline well water is caused by containing excessive minerals like calcium, boron, and magnesium. High pH water systems can also result in rotten-egg, sulfur smell.
In our article today, we will be discussing the more common issue of low pH well water – what causes it, signs of acidic water, as well as how to raise pH in well water supply. Fortunately, it is fairly simple to solve acidic water issue in your well before it causes further damage.
Signs of Low pH in Water Systems
A few common tell tale signs of low pH well water is if you begin noticing leaks in your plumbing, or red rust stain / blue-green stains and corrosion on the piping inside your toilet tank.
Acidic water corrodes the inside of your pipes and plumbing over time. Although a small leak won’t usually be a huge problem, but a small 10-drops-per-minute leaks will mean wasting 3 liters of water per day. The pinhole leak will increase as the surfaces are worn away from the acid. This means that a small leak can turn into something much larger if the pipe is left to be corroded by acid water. Furthermore, cracks and stress may also begin to appear on the outside of your pipes.
Rust Stains on Galvanized Iron Plumbing
If you have galvanized plumbing, you’ll quickly notice red, rust stains on the affected surfaces of your galvanized iron plumbing. When the inside of your plumbing corrodes, you may also notice your water taking on a reddish-brown hue and have a metallic taste.
wah While drinking rusty water isn’t dangerous, it does not taste or smell good. Red or brown water systems are also a clear sign that you need to send your water for a test and treat acidic imbalance before it gets worse.
Blue-Green Stains on Copper Plumbing
If you have copper pipes in your home, acidic water will result in blue-green stains on your copper plumbing fixtures and faucets. The drinking water also have some discoloration and an unpleasant taste. Not only that, but copper pipe corrosion will have an effect on your hair color.
One easy-to-spot signs of copper corrosion is around your aluminium fixtures like your bathroom sink. Having copper leaching out of your pipes into your drinking water will lead to further health problems when consumed regularly.
Issues with Acidic Well Water
Acidic water can bring a lot of problems to your home plumbing system and plumbing fixtures, such as:
One of the biggest problems with acidic water is that it causes corrosion in your plumbing system. Acidic water will breakdown materials over time and once your pipe begins to dissolve, they’re more susceptible to leaking. Not only that, but the metals that break off from your plumbing will enter your drinking water.
Another big concern of acid water in your well is that your water most likely contains high amounts of heavy metals since acidic water has a high susceptibility to incur metal leaching. Water with a low pH lacks minerals and will begin grabbing them on its way to your faucet to try to neutralize the acid. As a result, the acid water will pick up metals along the way that you will also end up drinking. Some of the heavy metals that may leach into your acid water include:
These types of metal are commonly found around your home, including copper pipes, well pump, and plumbing fixtures.
Prolonged exposure and consumption of heavy metals will result in a range of negative health effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and even organ damage over time. In addition to that, acid in water can also damage your teeth and bones.
How To Test pH of the Water
If you’re unsure what’s the pH of your water, don’t worry as there’s a simple test you can do to check the water’s pH level. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH 7 is neutral. Any pH level less than is acidic and above 7 is alkaline.
At-Home pH Test Kit
The simplest way to test the pH of the water is with an at-home DIY testing kit. Most pH tests will only require you to dip the test trip into your water sample to check the pH level. The strip will change color according to the pH of your water, you can then compare the color of the strip to determine your water’s pH level.
A more precise test to check your water’s pH is to send a sample to a laboratory. Laboratory testing will give you a more thorough and accurate insight into the pH level of your water. Not only that, but laboratory testing can also help you check for other common well water contaminants as well.
How to Raise pH in Well Water
There are two ways to fix acid water and to increase the pH: acid neutralizer filters and neutralizing chemical feed pumps.
Acid Neutralizer Filter
Acid neutralizer filters raise the pH by treating it with a pH-boosting media such as calcium carbonate (known as calcite) or a blend of calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide (known as corsex).
The most common calcium carbonate acid neutralizer filter system consists a single media tank and a control head. Once the acid water flows through the tank, the media will dissolve into the water to increase the pH. This will result in a water’s pH of around 7 to 7.5, depending on the original pH range.
Acid neutralizer filters require backwashing to maintain efficient operation. Since water flows through the tank in the same route every time, certain parts of the calcite media will be used up before others. The backwashing process will send the water through the tank in the opposite direction, causing the calcite media to spin around. Once the backwashing process completes, the media will have settled in a new position for water treatment. Nonetheless, the media will run out eventually and you’ll need to top it up every 6 to 12 months.
It is also important that you get the right tank size for your neutralizer. Get a tank based on your water flow rate to ensure that you get the right water flow through your plumbing. Majority of neutralizer filters are installed at the home’s point of entry to also protect the well itself, pressure tank and well pump. In addition to that, you can also buy components with special protective linings or coatings to reduce the risk of acid damage.
A neutralizing filter that uses calcite media can raise the pH to 6-6.5. This type of acidic water treatment is made from crushed white marble. The calcium carbonate in the neutralizing filters will raise the pH, just like how it would in the natural environment when water flows through calcium-rich rock. A good thing about calcite media is that you can easily find replacement online.
Calcite-Corosex Blend Media
While calcite media is a suitable neutralizing filter in most circumstances, you may also be dealing with water with a pH scale that’s lower than 6. Calcite media can typically increase pH in well water by 1, the magnesium oxide and corosex blend can increase it by 1.5.
The optimum ratio of calcite and corosex is 10-20% of magnesium oxide and 80-90% calcie media. Adding too much corosex to the neutralizing filters will raise pH of water too high, and lead to its own set of problems. Magnesium oxide also has a laxative effect when consumed, so it’s best used sparingly.
Another thing to keep in mind when using calcite and magnesium oxide as an acidic water treatment is that it will boost your hardness minerals. These minerals will form scale in your piping and cause damage over time. If you don’t want to swap one water quality issue for another, you may want to pair this magnesium oxide system with a water softener to soften the water after the calcite-corosex treatment.
Chemical Injection System
If your well water has particularly low pH range of 4 or 5, then the only remedy for that is to soda ash injection via a chemical feed pump. The chemical injection system treats acidic water by adding suitable amount of soda ash into the water via a chemical feed pump to increase low pH of well water to neutral level. The injection system comes equipped with a chemical feed pump and a tank. The control valve is programmed to inject the right amount of chemical required based on your water’s pH scale. This means the lower the pH, the more soda ash is injected through the chemical feed pump.
Injection systems require electricity for the hcemical feed pumpn. An alternative to soda ash is sodium hydroxide. An advantage to using injection systems is that no hardness mineral is introduced into the treated water and the system will not affect the flow rate. On top of that, chemical feed pumps do not need to be backwashed, hence do not waste any water during soda ash injection or treatment process.
Most homeowners will install an injection system at their home’s point of entry to feed soda ash solution directly into the well itself to protect the pressure tank, well pump and casing from corrosion in addition to your home’s copper pipes and appliances. Maintenance for chemical feed pumps in infection system is minimal. All you need to do is to refill the soda ash storage tank and clean the screens periodically. Nonetheless, the chemical feed pump itself will require some cleaning and maintenance from time to time.
Frequently Asked Questions on Acidic Water
Why does my well water have low pH?
Drinking water and well water pH can be affected by chemicals and minerals present in the water supply. Those living in Oregon, Northern Wisconsin, New York, and Colorado Mountains in the U.S. will most likely find acidic water in their supply.
Acid water is caused by an imbalance in soil or bedrock. Although rainfall itself is relatively acidic, once it lands on the ground, it will collect minerals from the surfaces before entering your aquifer. However, some rocks like granite and igneous rocks have low calcium content. This means that it’s not able to raise the water’s pH before it enters your well.
Another reason for water with a pH lower than 6.5 in your well is due to chemical run-off from agricultural and industrial processes nearby. Dissolved carbon dioxide from plant decomposition may also alter water’s pH levels and increase its acidity.
Is it safe to drink acidic water?
Whether it is safe to drink acid water will determine just how acidic the drinking water is as well as the metal contaminants it is exposed to. Acid water with metal ions like copper, lead, and arsenic can lead to a number of health problems, depending on the concentration of those metals in your drinking water. Other health risks of consuming acidic driniking water includes damage to your tooth enamel and bone loss caused by reduced calcium absorption. Generally, drinking acid water shouldn’t pose serious health threats but it’s still best to treat water with a pH below 6.5 to protect both your home and your health in the long run.
What is the average pH range of well water?
Surface water well pH scale ranges from 6.5 to 8.5 while groundwater systems have water with a pH of 6 to 8.5. Note that this is just the average pH and your well water may not necessarily reflect this value. The region and area where you live will also play a part in how acidic or alkaline your water is. It’s always a good idea to conduct a pH test on your water to determine its exact pH. You may also get more information about your local pH water online.
Is there a problem with high pH?
While we’ve discussed the negative effects of lower pH, high pH in alkaline water can also be detrimental to your home and health. While water with a pH lower than 6.5 does not carry enough mineral ions, alkaline water with high alkalinity carries too much mineral ions that can cause scales on your pipes. This will ultimately lead to reduced water flow rate and reduced efficiency of water heaters and other water-based appliances. Water with a pH higher than 7.5 will also shorten the lifespan of electrical appliances. You’ll then also need to employ a water treatment solution to lower the pH of your drinking water.
Can acid neutralizers or soda ash injection also filter water?
Unfortunately, acid neutralizers and soda ash injection systems do not filter water. Acid neutalizers may remove a small amount of iron but cannot be used for general filtration. To remove sediments and solid contaminants, it is advisable to install a whole home filter system alongside your neutralizing system. Take note that acidic water is more susceptible to contamination, so remember to test your drinking water and treat it appropriately.
One advantage to using the soda ash solution is that the soda ash solution or sodium hydroxide can also be used to disinfect your water while reducing its pH. In addition to neutralizing chemical, you can also add chlorine to your system for disinfection.
Will Calcite or calcite blend acid neutralize make water hard?
Generlaly, if the water is less than 170 mg/L or 10 grains per gallon, most customers can avoid needing to install a water softener after a acid water treatment. However, if yoru water is 3 grains per gallon, then your water after the neutralizer will be about 5 to 7 grains per gallon since neutralizers will add 3-4 grains per gallon on average.
For situations like this, you can add a water softener after the acid water treatment. Nonetheless, it is recommended to give the acid neutralizer 3-6 months to stop copper corrosion before adding a water softener.
Can water treatment for acid be used to filter other contaminants?
Unfortunately, neutralizers and chemical injection won’t be able to filter out sediments or other contaminants. Hence, it is recommended to install a whole-house water filter system after treating the acid to thoroughly remove any other contaminants that you may be facing.