Iron Bacteria

What Is It?
Iron bacteria are organisms that consume iron to survive and, in the process, produce deposits of iron (rust), and a red or brown slime called a “biofilm.”

Is It Harmful?
Iron is an essential mineral for human health, and as such it is not particularly harmful to ingest. Trace impurities and microorganisms absorbed by iron solids, however, may pose a health concern in certain cases. Aesthetic effects of iron contamination include undesirable tastes, colors, and odors, as well as staining of fixtures, appliances, and laundry. Physical effects include corrosion damage to fixtures and appliances, as well as reduced effectiveness of treatment systems.

What is the Maximum Contaminant Level?
The U.S. EPA has set a secondary maximum contaminant level (MCL) standard of 0.3 mg/L or 0.3 ppm (parts per million) iron in drinking water. Changes in taste, odor, and color may be evident when levels are greater than 0.3 ppm.

How Can I Test for It?
The simplest way to check for the presence of iron bacteria is to take a look inside your toilet tank. If your water is frothy, rust-colored, slimy, or odorous, it may be host to iron bacteria. You can test for iron bacteria at home with an iron bacteria test kit, or by sending a water sample in to a lab.

How Can I Treat It?
The best way to treat iron bacteria is with a continuous chlorine injector installed before an iron filter. The chlorine will kill the bacteria in your pipes and oxidize them for easy filtration by the iron filter. Alternatively, you might consider periodic shock-chlorination of your plumbing system, paired with an iron filter and side chlorine tank, to kill the bacteria that get into the iron filter.