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Major iron bacteria problem in sump

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  • #31
    Re: Major iron bacteria problem in sump

    I was having a similar problem. Looking for a basement waterproofing new York What to do.
    Last edited by BasementQuestions; 11-21-2012, 11:50 AM. Reason: unauthorized advertisement


    • #32
      Iron Bacteria in NY

      For Iron Bacteria the company to contact with products to hanbdle this problem would be Grate Products at (800) 649-6140 see if they have a contractor / installtion company in your area.


      • #33
        Addressing the Iron Bacteria problem; how I've managed the problem.

        Good evening all, hopefully people are still reading this thread now and again.

        I just wanted to share my experiences with how I've been managing my iron bacteria problem successfully for the last 4 or 5 years, its been a struggle, but we are finally at the point where we can go away on vacation and not have panic attacks that our basement will be flooded with red goo when we come back. First some history.

        We bought house 6 years ago, fully aware that there was a water problem but not as bad as it turned out to be. The sump pump failed within 5 months, even though i was regularly flushing both the pit and the drain cleanouts. This happened 2 or three times over the course of a year and half period. Ultimately, i had to have the discharge line dismantled and flushed out and still ended up with problems. Finally 4 years ago, after a series of bad rain storms, and snow build up, I noticed that our carpets in the basement were soaked. Water seeped up through concrete, which was strange because the drains were more or less clear. As it turns out, that black drain pipe was completely clogged.

        Now, I'm the type that like to research problems and I eventually discovered the Grate drain system and ultimately someone to install it. Thinking about the main issues I was having (water not moving into the pump pit, pump clogging up, not enough access), I determined that the grate drain system was worth looking into. So long story short, I had it installed in the house. Fair warning, I am not a rep of the company and this is most definitely a biased plug for the grate drain products. I am a customer who has worked with my local installer to make this thing work. The system is not perfect, and it does need tweaking, but it does work. There is however a but, and its a big one. Maintenance. You need to do it. Not once a year, not 2 times a year, but depending on the severity of your problem around once a month, a little more during the wetter portions of the year and a little less during the drier portions, and before extended trips for peace of mind.

        You don;t need to much to clean everything out, and I have it down to about 2 hrs on average (more or less depending how involved i feel like getting), but a slop sink, heavy duty hose to handle the hot water, a shut off valve for the end of the hose, a secondary hose with a narrow tip nozzle (for pressure), some small brushes, and a bucket. I'm fortunate in that I have two hot water heaters in my house so I usually have just enough hot water to flush out all the drain tiles and two pump pits.

        Basically I just find the further point from the sump, slide the hose through the clean out, and flush it out with scalding hot water. I let it run for a good 15 min in each direction. While its running I go to all the cleanouts down the line and scrub them of any iron bacteria deposits. I let it run until the water run clear, then I switch directions. For the sump pits, I unplug both main pump and back up pump fill the pits, then cycle each pump to test them. I try to break up any build ups and let the pump drain the entire thing 2 or 3 times. This part is important. The grate drain products have a clear check valve with screw on pvc threads, you have to take this thing off and soak it in hot water and Iron out (more on that later)...then scrub it. I actually have a back up check valve so i can drop it right in while I'm cleaning the dirty one. Also, the pvc threads on the check valves are a huge pain in the rear, I snapped a discharge line trying to unscrew them. I took off the pvc screws and use rubber franco's (1.25 to 2 inch joiners) to secure the check valve in place. The check valve is your indicator, if you cant see through it, its getting time to clean it. Once all the flushing is done, and the iron bacteria has broken down into a choclate milk consistency, then I add about a half cup of iron out directly to sump pit. Thats the basics. I also add some iron out to each clean out. This usually buys me about a week of clear water, followed by a week or two of cloudy water, then by the 4th week or so I know its getting time to clean.

        There are other things I've done to, off of advice from my sump pump company, and looks like it may be supported in some scientific literature that i stumbled across. They suggested lime pellets (like for your lawn), and I had a lot of success with adding about a cup and half to each pit and half a cup to each cleanout. It seems to prevent the iron bacteria from forming clumpy colonies. Im not sure of the impacts to the pump itself. Currently I'm trying some kinda of rock salt rust remover, I just added it and so far so good. The down side about the lime is it does create a mush in the cleanouts, but it is easily broken up by flushes and its like a secondary shock to the system.

        I do have some minor gripes with the system, and some observations from dealing with this for the last five years. First gripe was cleaning the check valves. Those pvc screws have got to go. They are cumbersome and a pain, the franco's are easier and shaved off about an hr of time off my clean out.

        Second, I'm convinced that the discharge line should be disassembled once a year (or so) and cleaned out to prevent pump failure. My current discharge line is roughly about 50% clogged after five years. Not bad, but not great, I decided to have it rebuilt from the ground up with multiple break points and clean outs...and and remove as many 90 degree turns as possible..they are hard to get at. Hopefully once a year maintenance during the dry parts of the year should help cut down on build up.

        Third gripe, the sump pits themselves are a great design, but they need work. If you have a back up pump installed in an adjacent and connected pit, with a means for the water to move between each pit, then you will end up with an alarm going off in the middle of the night. There is a seam at the bottom of the pit that allows for water to move back and forth, it gets clogged after about two weeks and requires a dosage of iron out, and some scrubbing to loosen it up. My solution was to have a few quarter inch holes drilled through each liner for better water flow, it helps, but it isn;t perfect. Ideally, I think the way to go is a double sized single pit for two vertically positioned pumps (one main and one backup), a stand for each pump and a split discharge line each with a clear check valve. Failing that, cut out the wall between the two pits.

        Fourth gripe and a minor one, Im not sure if its an installation issue but the drain pipes themselves do not seem to keep the outside water and inside water separate. Watching the guys put it in, there was no sealing mechansim for corners or places where two pipes joined, that said, the larger holes were a great idea.

        I've had three ideas to help with the maintenance but im not sure how to implement them. First one idea that I've had, and I'd like to get some feed back if such a thing would be possible, would be for an automated/timed release mechanism to drop either specific amounts of iron out, or lime. The problem with the iron out and lime is that they loose thier efficacy over time, a constant reintroduction may keep the bacteria colonies under control.

        The second idea that I had would be for some kind of agitator or kicker mechanism in the pit itself to stir up the iron bacteria everytime the pump kicks on. I'm wondering if constant agitation would break up some of the colonies and help keep it from sticking and having large clumps move through the discharge line.

        Third idea. There should be a way to dewater the discharge line after the pump cycles off. Discharge lines clog up because the water just sits in them and the colonies have a chance to grow and collect. If there were a means of forcing the water completely out of the line everytime the pump turns off i think that would go a long way to preventing the long term build up we've been seeing.

        So..that in a nut shell is where I'm at with this. For all of you have this problem it really comes down to maintenance, and it needs to be done all the time. After five years i don't believe a permanent solution will ever be found. We are dealing with a living organism that can adjust and adapt. That said, with proper maintenance I finally feel like I have a handle on this thing and will be looking to refurnish my basement in the not so distant future.

        Good luck everyone, and keep the ideas flowing, hopefully the folks at grate drain will see some of this and give it a go.


        • #34
          Iron Bacteria

          Thank you Mrez for your detailed experience dealing with this problem. It is a difficult problem to handle. I have also forwarded your suggestions to Grate Products on tweaking their system and wish you all the best!!


          • #35
            Iron bacteria


            Im in the same slimy red boat as everyone else is here. I am actually working on one of your ideas in your last post. I intend to take a Stenner dosage pump, hook it to a timer that supports 1 minute increments. the stenner pump will pump in doses of iron out as specified by the timer. I'll mix iron out in a few gallons of water in a container. i'll put the suction end of the stenner pump in there. the discharge end i plan to place in the highest point cleanout of my b-dry system. It is not in place yet, and i'll have to play with the settings and times but this might just work. the most expensive part of this is the stenner pump but you can get them cheaper on ebay.

            the beauty if this is that you can use regular old iron out, and this idea will give the system small doses 1-2 times a day, more if needed. instead of using a lot of iron out every month or 2 this should just prevent the problem from happening in the first place. i'll post back when its in place and running.

            the only maintenance i plan is to once a month or so check the solution bucket and refill with water/iron out solution.

            wish me luck,



            • #36
              forgot to mention

              i have been dealing with this problem for 6 years. i have had 3 feet of water so many times that i switched to dual 4 inch discharge lines, dual zoeller pumps, a water alarm, a remote dialer if water is detected too high so it calls my cell phone and an IP camera pointed at my sump pit so i can check the condition of it on my cell phone from work.

              This is affecting my quality of life.



              • #37
                Maintence needed

                Constant maintence is needed with this problem. @ Jgarafolo did B-dry give you any advice when the system was installed?

                I searched the Stenner water treatment pump and like what I am reading. This sounds like it may be a good product for maintaining chemical levels into the drain system.

                With having a standard interior system it is not easy to keep this from clogging. The beauty of the Grate Product is that they are designed with cleanouts to make cleaning them a bit easier.

                Please keep us posted as to your success.

                Thank you for your post.


                • #38
                  Iron bacteria

                  the b dry was installed from the previous owners. i dont know the specifics of why they got it installed etc but they did show me how it works and that there is a lifetime warranty. Apparently this doesnt cover iron bacteria. The advice they gave the previous owners was to add iron out once a month in all the cleanouts.

                  I havent ever had them out to check it, im a DIY kinda guy, even for large projects. I have made changes to the system since it was installed. The original setup was a 1.5 inch discharge pipe and 1 sump pump with a float switch.

                  i added dual 4 inch discharge lines, dual zoeller sump pumps, a water alarm, a remote dialer and an ip camera. Also the zoeller pumps are manual models, without a float switch. they are controlled by something called "the ultimate sump pump controller" i purchased off of

                  so far its been in place 2 years, no failures. the sensor is a stainless steel probe that seems to withstand the harsh conditions.

                  as soon as my timer ships in (special one with 1 minute increments) i'll get this dosage project underway.



                  • #39
                    pumps iron bacteria

                    Thanks Joe

                    they look like very good sump pumps Thank you for sharing. Let us know how your planned chemical meteoring works out for you.

                    Basement Questions


                    • #40
                      my plan has been implemented!

                      I got all the parts, and it is now metering iron-out into the highest point of my b-dry system. I have yet to tell if this will work. it's only received 1 dose so far and that was 10 minutes ago. Starting condition : pipes are full of red slimy blobs. poor flow. i'll check daily and see how its coming along.

                      I took a electric timer programmable in 1 minute increments. plugged a stenner pump into the timer. set the timer to run 3 times a day for 1 minute each time. well spaced out. I run the output into a small hole i drilled in the cleanout cap of the highest point in the sump system. I used a few drops of food coloring to determine this.

                      The iron out tank is a 20 gallon garbage pail. i filled it with water, mixed in the iron out and put the suction line in through a small hole i drilled in the lid.

                      tested everything out and it will indeed pump iron out solution into my sump system 3 times a day. it seems to pump about an ounce a minute. so 3 ounces a day.

                      1. is 3 times a day enough or too much? only time will tell.
                      2. is the solution strong enough? i used most of a large bottle for 20 gallons. it should be. im hoping to get away with less next time if it does work.
                      3. how long does iron out stay potent after mixed with water in that garbage can? it is sealed. i tried to ask the company but i never got a response.


                      short term i'm hoping that the daily doses of iron out prevent the build up of iron bacteria in my sump system and keep the pipe walls clean and get great unimpeded flow.

                      long term it might be possible over a year or 2 that the iron bacteria get wiped out and my sump becomes free of this nightmare. that would rock.

                      i will continue to post testing results.


                      • #41

                        been running for 2 days now. injection point is sparkling clean. clean as far as i can see through that cleanout. next cleanout down the line is 50% better than it was but still red and slimy. 3rd one down is a tad better and 4th and furthest is unaffected. sump pit is unaffected.

                        I changed my pump times to 2 minutes per run tonight. i'll see if it makes a difference in the lower end of the system.

                        so far i consider this a success, as without intervention, the pipes continually get worse. since the furthest down the line was no change in amount of red slime, it did not get worse which is a success. I did not do a cleaning before implementing this. im wondering if i did a manual cleaning of the system and then ran the injection pump it would prevent it.

                        Since i dont have time to do that cleaning, i will let it run as is and see if it cleans up the problem on its own.


                        • #42

                          Thank you Jgarafolo

                          This sounds promising and we look forward to your future posts!!!



                          • #43
                            my 2 cents

                            As a basement waterproofer for 24 years now, i will concur with a lot of people on here that: 1. iron bacteria is the worst! it's a waterproofing company's nemesis. 2. Iron Out is the only product that i found to have any leverage over this bacteria (although i just read about oxy clean and the lime pellets). 3. Hot water is definitely a flush it and clear out the coagulated muck that builds up. 4. you have to use iron out/hot water flush to match the severity of your problem. it could be once a month or once a year, it all depends.

                            when we put in a french drain, we like to leave an open system, a 1" gap(obviously not when radon is present) to provide an entry for seepage into the french drain if water comes off the wall. when putting in a system where iron bacteria is present, although not desirable for the homeowner, we leave an extra wide floating floor/gap to be able to flush out the drains along the wall. through our experience, it's the gravel that gets infiltrated with iron ochre more than the pipe. so just cleaning out the PVC pipe through our clean outs that we put just doesn't do the trick.


                            good luck,


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by Jgarafolo View Post
                              been running for 2 days now. injection point is sparkling clean. clean as far as i can see through that cleanout. next cleanout down the line is 50% better than it was but still red and slimy. 3rd one down is a tad better and 4th and furthest is unaffected. sump pit is unaffected.

                              I changed my pump times to 2 minutes per run tonight. i'll see if it makes a difference in the lower end of the system.

                              so far i consider this a success, as without intervention, the pipes continually get worse. since the furthest down the line was no change in amount of red slime, it did not get worse which is a success. I did not do a cleaning before implementing this. im wondering if i did a manual cleaning of the system and then ran the injection pump it would prevent it.

                              Since i dont have time to do that cleaning, i will let it run as is and see if it cleans up the problem on its own.
                              I am going to bring this post back from the dead, to see if this is working to keep your system clean.

                              I am currently cleaning it out monthly and would love to automate it.



                              • #45


                                sorry its been so long - the chlorine metering did not work over the long term. The problem was that the chlorine solution loses its potency over time. so if you make a "sump" and fill that with chlorine to be injected into the pipes, in a week or so your chlorine is too weak.

                                I havent had time to play around with this any more, ive been adding iron out when i notice theres an issue (water in the basement).

                                I would like to try slow release chlorine tablets in a sump instead of bleach. that might help. Or find a metering device to release powder chemicals, such as iron out.