Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Water Pressure Problem in one Part of the House

Not too long ago, a beloved member of my household complained to me that there was a loss of water pressure in the bathroom of his man-cave. Since he supported me through graduate school he has a lifetime right to have me manage all equipment or groundwater issues. So, I applied my common sense and engineering degrees to the problem.

Typically, a reduction in pressure from the well can have several causes:

  1. the well going dry,
  2. a leak or blockage in a pipe in or from the well
  3. a pump problem
  4. a pressure tank or pressure switch problem
  5. an electrical problem (pump is running on 120 instead of 240)

However, the loss of pressure in only one section of the house is likely to be a plumbing problem. The man-cave bathroom is right behind the utility closet where the pressure tank is. First, when you have a pressure problem take a look at your pressure tank. Looked good at around 50 psi.

The pressure tank is only 4 years old

Next, I went upstairs to the master bedroom to judge how the water pressure looked in our sink and bathtub. Then I wandered around checking water pressure at all the faucets and showers. In the end it seemed to me that only the wet bar sink, the mancave bathroom and the refrigerator water line were impacted.

All these items are on the west side of the house where the well and pressure tank are located, but they are not in the same plumbing line. Didn’t sound like a blockage. I pulled the aerator from one of the impacted sinks. It was filled with little black granules. I looked in the toilet tank and saw black  and brown granules at the bottom of the tank. This was clearly iron and/or manganese.

What came out of the aerator looked black

In the toilet tank it looked like rust-iron

Iron and manganese are naturally occurring elements commonly found in groundwater in many parts of the country including here. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act the standard Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) for iron is 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L or ppm) and 0.05 mg/L for manganese. This level of iron and manganese are easily detected by taste, smell or appearance. My naturally occurring levels are a fraction of those levels and so present no taste or staining issues, and at levels naturally present in groundwater iron and manganese do not present a health hazard. However, their presence in well water can cause accumulation of mineral solids over time that can clog water treatment equipment and plumbing. 

Iron and manganese deposits build up in pipelines, pressure tanks, water heater and water softening equipment. These deposits restrict the flow of water and reduce water pressure. My very problem. I actually exacerbated the problem by chlorinating my well. Iron and manganese exist in many different chemical forms. The presence of a given form of iron or manganese in geologic materials or water depends on many different environmental factors. Dissolved iron and manganese are easily oxidized to a solid form by mixing with air or an oxidizing agent.

Groundwater tends to be an oxygen poor environment; typically, the deeper the aquifer the less dissolved oxygen is present. Iron and manganese carbonates in an oxygen poor environment are relatively soluble and can cause high levels of dissolved iron and manganese to be carried from a deep well. When the iron and manganese are oxidized reddish brown or black particles form and settle out as water stands. These particles are often found trapped in washing machine filters, water treatment equipment, and in plumbing fixtures. Chlorine or hydrogen peroxide is an excellent chemical oxidizing agent. Thus, their presence in the aerators and toilet tanks.

I called Chris Jones from Chantilly Plumbing to help me remove, clean and where needed replace all my aerators and shower heads. I’ll let the toilet tanks go for now and replace the filter cartridge in the refrigerator.

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