If you live in northwest Indiana, chances are you’re seeing orange in your basement. Whether it’s a lot or just a little, whether it’s a stained floor around your water heater or sludge in your sump pump, it all comes from the same source – iron bacteria.
Iron bacteria are harmless bacteria that are found almost everywhere in our environment; they oxidize the iron in water to survive and grow. The resulting by-product of this oxidation is ferrous oxide and that’s what creates the orange/brown stain and sludge.
It’s a good thing that iron bacteria aren’t harmful to humans because there’s a lot of it in northwest Indiana. The soil in the area is particularly rich in iron and the iron contained in the soil moves easily into groundwater as it percolates through the ground.
Because groundwater is the source of household drinking water for more than half the state’s population and Indiana ranks 9th in the U.S. in the use of private wells, it’s not surprising that northwest Indiana has an iron bacteria problem. Water from private wells is quite likely to carry iron bacteria because it leeched from the soil surrounding the aquifer.
Most of the time, the presence of iron bacteria and the resulting iron oxide is merely a nuisance in your home. Basement floors, sump pumps and plumbing fixtures may be stained orange; a good scrubbing with a chlorinated cleanser will take care of that.
The big problem with iron bacteria is that, in high concentrations, it creates a gelatinous orange sludge that can wreak havoc with basement waterproofing systems. It can clog both interior and exterior drain tile and gum up sump pumps. In this fluid state, the iron bacteria sludge can be removed by a basement waterproofing company using a hot-water flush that will kill the bacteria and remove the sludge.
In dry conditions, such as the drought the area experienced this summer, the gelatinous matter can dry out and solidify. If this happens in the gravel bed surrounding drain tile, water can no longer flow through the gravel and reach the drain. If it occurs inside the drain tile itself, flow will be blocked. Inside a sump pump, the solid matter will render it useless. In any of these cases, the iron oxide cannot be removed and the sump pump, gravel or drain tile must be replaced.
A basement waterproofing company experienced in dealing with iron bacteria in northwest Indiana can design waterproofing systems to minimize the risk of clogging. They can install clean-outs and modify other components to lessen the likelihood of a problem. Chlorine is another way of eliminating iron bacteria and the basement waterproofing company can incorporate it into a waterproofing system.
At U.S. Waterproofing we’ve helped many homeowners in places like Merrillville, Dyer and Valparaiso keep their basements dry without inviting iron bacteria along for the ride. If you’d like to know how we can do that for your home, please ask for a free consultation.
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