In the management of water-supply wells, iron bacteria are bacteria that derive the energy they need to live and multiply by oxidizing dissolved ferrous iron (or the less frequently available manganese). The resulting ferric oxide is insoluble, and appears as brown gelatinous slime that will stain plumbing fixtures, and clothing or utensils washed with the water carrying it. They are known to grow and proliferate in waters containing as low as 0.1 mg/l of iron. However, at least 0.3 ppm of dissolved oxygen is needed to carry out oxidation.
Common effects of excess iron in water are a reddish-brown color and stained laundry. Iron bacteria are a natural part of the environment in most parts of the world. These microorganisms combine dissolved iron or manganese with oxygen and use it to form rust-colored deposits. In the process, the bacteria produce a brown slime that builds up on well screens, pipes, and plumbing fixtures.
Bacteria known to feed on iron are Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans.
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