Putting Our Water Through the Wringer

Image couresy of The Virtual Dime Museum: www.thevirtualdimemuseum.com

We spent some time detailing the importance of water and, more specifically, rainfall in our determination of where to farm. Access to an adequate and clean water supply was also critical. What we haven’t talked about is just what it takes for us to get our water clean. We are on a well with no access to public water. Upon opening the kitchen faucet on our first visit we were nearly floored by the smell the sulfur in the water. For anyone that’s smelled sulfur water you’ll never forget it. Imagine a strong odor of rotten eggs and the shock of a dutch oven

After some testing was done last November we learned that the water is highly ferric (lots of iron) and moderately sulfuric. In addition, there’s high levels of many other minerals (magnesium, etc) and the grains of hardness is off the charts at 18-22 grains.
The result is that we need a water filtration system. If we chose not to filter the water not only would we have to put up with bathing and brushing our teeth in rotten egg-smelling water, but we’d also quickly ruin all our appliances and the equipment in the creamery. The minerals cake up around the metal and corrode everything they touch. That would spell disaster for our nice, new (well, new to us anyway) cheese vat, bulk tank, etc. That's not cheap stuff! The TN Dept of Ag also has specific criteria for water cleanliness that we have to meet for food production standards. Even though we won't be using water in the production of cheese, and we'll be adding plenty of cleaning solution to the water before it ever hits the equipment, it still needs to be free of coliform and other bacteria.
So the day we move in we’re getting a system that chlorinates the water (which removes the sulfur and iron), then removes the excess chlorine, and then softens the water (takes all the other hard minerals out). Who would’ve thought we’d be operating a water treatment facility in addition to running the farm? It’s a good thing the primary inputs are as simple as chlorine and salt and it won’t cost a fortune to run, although it will cost a pretty penny for the equipment upfront (but no water bills on a well either...).
But that’s not the end of it as far as the water’s concerned. As the water flows into the creamery for cleaning floors, walls and equipment it will be combined with all the acids and cleaning solutions required for proper sanitization and then sent to a holding tank to be re-treated so that the water can safely be disposed outside again.
Then the water will filter back into the water supply where it will be bombarded with more sulfur and iron from the soils and maybe one day put it will come back through the loop. Talk about being put through the wringer. Tough life.