Seeing red no more

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New filtration system is tested on city water

By Ada Lang

Back in elementary school, you may have been told that iron oxide powder, added to a paint base, made red paint. The abundant red pigment was the reason for many a red building and barns around the country.


But, it is also the reason for the red water that comes out of the city’s wells. For years, the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District has been removing the iron and manganese from the water, but it has been a tedious and expensive process. Particularly because the water also runs through a MIEX system, to remove Tri-halo-methanes (THMs).

There is a lime filtration system on the MIEX system, but lime is hard to work with. District manager Jack Hotaling describes it as “slimy, in the liquid form - like tooth paste.” It is thin enough to pump but it also clogs the hoses used to pump it, and it costs about $20,000 a year in lime powder and man hours to run and clean the system.

Enter the Omni-Sorb Fe/Mn Removal System. This past week, a scaled down version of the system was installed to find out if it is up to the job of removing the minerals. Currently, it is installed before the MIEX system, but they will also install it after the MIEX. The results, based on water tests, will be compared to determine the best location for it.

The goal is to run the well water though the Omni-Sorb and capture the minerals. The key to the system is the “black” sand. According to Hotaling, it is naturally occurring green sand that has been impregnated with MnO2 - or manganese dioxide - for those of us who skipped chemistry class.

The treated sand captures the iron and manganese, and once daily the system is back-washed, which flushes the minerals out for disposal. The water then runs through the MIEX and it does not have to work nearly as hard (or as expensively) to remove the red tint.

After the final system is installed, the water will go through the sand filter system, then through the MIEX system and then through softening, sand filtration and chlorine disinfection processes. The system will consist of two six foot diameter filters - considerably larger than the four inch test filter and it will automatically run the backwash system on a regular basis.

After about a month of water samples and tests, the crew at the Water District will install another similar filter, by Adage. Once they determine which one works best, they will obtain bids for purchasing and installing the systems and select one.

Funding for the two million dollar project comes primarily from the USDA and a loan, and will include replacing the water main that runs from the wells just off island into town.