Misadventures in water

They came. They drilled. They left a huge mess.


But sadly, they did not find the water we were looking for. The whole point of this exercise was to find rust free water. All of our neighbors have clean water, but apparently our whole property is sitting on a slightly deeper bedroock which is criss-crossed with rust deposits. At 80 feet, we were getting 7-8 gallons per minute of green-brown slurry. It seems far worse than our existing water, so we are just going to replumb our current well rather than use the new one. I’ve been looking into backwashing iron filters. Anyone have any recommendations?


There were two further insults after we finished drilling. The first was that the rock was so crumbly we had to add a liner or it might have collapsed upon itself and become completely unusable. It’s rusty, but I’d still like to keep my options open. Maybe a hand pump? The second insult was a letter from the Oregon Water Resources Department. It turns out that there is a separate “well recording fee” in Oregon, added in 2009, to be paid after the well is drilled. That’s a total of $525 in fees to put a hole in the ground. Yay! At least we get to keep the pools of rock slurry.


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13 Responses to Misadventures in water

  1. Snowbrush says:

    I’m just sick about this. All that money for a well that’s no better than what you already had. Was there no possibility of drilling deeper in the hope of finding clean water?

    • lee says:

      Yeah, I was pretty unhappy about it as well. Drilling deeper might have found better water, but there’s no way to know. The problem is that the shallower rusty water would contaminate your cleaner deeper water, if it existed. To get around this, you have to install a full casing, like the steel pipe that protects the first 25 feet down to bedrock. Casing requires a larger hole, so you also have to pay to have the first 80 feet re-drilled. The short answer is that it would be another $3000 just to seal off the rusty water before you started drilling again to find something deeper, and there’s no guarantee. That felt a lot like doubling down on a failure, perhaps quadrupling down.

  2. Ellie k says:

    We had a well with red iron water, we could not even wash a white car in it or it left a reddish color on the car. We added a water softener with filter to it and had great water.

    • lee says:

      We had one water treatment guy come through and he quoted us for a water softener as well. I know softeners will remove iron, but we don’t have hard water so it feels kind of overkill to feed salt into something just for the iron. At the moment I’m leaning toward something like this.

  3. Bill says:

    I know a family that had a well with rusty water. They ended up having to install $10k worth of filtering/treatment/softening equipment. And in the end, the water smelled sulphury. They ended up drilling a whole new well, much, much deeper and got clean water. If you’ve got cleaner water already with an adequate flow rate, I’d just stick with that and improve from there. Since you already have the new well, I’d be inclined to make a homemade filtration system. I’m not sure what kind of filtration you could use, but it would be fun to research it.

    • Snowbrush says:

      Bill, the comment section to your blog doesn’t work, at least on my computer. I’ve visited you a few times, but it’s always the same story.

      • Bill says:

        I don’t know why that is. I just double checked the settings and comments seem to be enabled. I think strange things can happen with blogger comments/blog sites on occasion. One time, I wasn’t able to comment on a blog page I used to frequent. For a while, I thought I got blocked due to some snarky comment or something. Turned out the comment link was in one of the disallow/block sections of the browser. Glad to know that at least I’m not writing to the ether.

    • lee says:

      You find a lot of horror stories about water treatment online, made worse by the number of people running predatory businesses. A lot of the websites selling water treatment also look like scams. It’s hard to sort through.

      Our existing water has 1.3ppm iron … not an extreme level by any means. The water softener we were quoted would have cost almost as much as having this well drilled, which is why I decided to try drilling as a solution instead. If I had realized there were much cheaper options for iron filtration, I don’t think we would have drilled. (Too many projects going on at once to be well informed on all of them.)

    • Jay Kay says:

      It is easy and inexpensive to remove with a common backwashing filter. I bought a filter called a Terminox at a place called Budget Water. I think the website was budgetwater.com. That had me do a few things around the house to figure out what I needed. I spent just a little over $700 and it removed all of my iron and sulfur. ALL of it, and I had a lot. I am not sure exactly how it does this because there is no salt, chemicals or maintenance involved. I have had it for 4 years now without any issues. I hope this helps some of you.I really love this informative website!

  4. ShimFarm says:

    I really wish there was an easy, inexpensive solution to your problem, too.

    This whole situation bites. Short of buying industrial quantities of Iron Out, I don’t know what I’d do.

  5. Robert Borch says:

    Hi –

    My sister who has a little farm in Longview sent me this link since she knows I’ve been working on a kickstarter campaign to see about getting a little funding to downscale some of the simple treatment technologies I’ve been working on for the last twenty years for the mining, aerospace and chemical manufacturing industries to domestic water supply wells. Things are a lot cheaper and simpler at 300 gallons a day vs 300 gallons a minute! Nitrate, pathogens and dissolved metals were my target. One of the things I’ve been working on is using sulfur biogeochemistry, extending the range from simple denitrification (using sulfur-oxidizing bacteria) to metals and pathogen removal as well. A couple of years ago I ran some simple column tests on landfill leachate with high iron and we had complete removal (or rather, non-detect at 0.1 ppm) with a very short retention time (5 minutes), with the iron precipitating as iron sulfide on the sulfur surface.
    If you are interested in helping me run a simple proof-of-concept trial on your well water and film a short video for the kickstarter campaign, I think we can help each other out. Should be fun!



    • lee says:

      Thanks for the comment. Your project does sound interesting, but I’ve got too many other irons in the fire right now to work on anything else. When you launch a Kickstarter for your system, please post a link.

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