Manganese in Drinking Water

Manganese is an essential nutrient for the human body and is found in some foods. It is also a naturally occurring metal found in some rocks and soils in Vermont that may get into groundwater. However, too much manganese in the body can cause health effects.

Manganese can also be a problem for well owners for two reasons:

  1. It can cause a bitter taste.
  2. It can cause black stains on plumbing fixtures and laundry.
Health Concerns: Is manganese harmful to my health?

Some common dietary sources of manganese are nuts, tea, leafy greens and whole grains. Small amounts of manganese are added to most vitamin supplements and baby formulas to make sure people get enough. Your daily intake of manganese will depend on your food choices, and it includes the water you drink.

Consuming too much manganese over a long period of time could harm your nervous system. Studies suggest that babies may be especially sensitive when fed formula made with well water that has high amounts of manganese.

Source: How does manganese get into my water?

Manganese is a metal found in some rocks and soils in Vermont that may get into groundwater. It can get into your drinking water if your well is drilled into or near bedrock containing manganese.

Testing: How do I know if manganese is in my water?

The Health Department recommends testing your private water source for manganese every five years.

Levels of manganese in drinking water are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Vermont. The Health Department has set an advisory level for manganese at the EPA’s lifetime health advisory of 0.300 mg/L (milligrams per liter) to protect the nervous system.

Generally, manganese concentrations below 0.050 mg/L will not cause staining or a bitter taste.

Order an inorganic chemical test (Kit C) by calling the Health Department Laboratory at 802-338-4724 or 800-660-9997 (toll-free in Vermont). You can also use a certified drinking water lab to test for inorganic chemicals. Search for a certified drinking water lab

Test Results: Is my result a problem?

If your final result for manganese is more than (>) 0.300 mg/L, the level is over the advisory level and treatment is recommended. 

If your final result for manganese is in between 0.050 mg/L and 0.300 mg/L, there may be a metallic taste to your water, a bad smell, rusty-colored water, mineral deposits or sedimentation, or brown or black staining on laundry or surfaces that come in contact with the water. None of these pose a health risk.

Treatment Options: Can I remove or lower the levels of manganese in my water?

Manganese can be lowered or removed from drinking water with treatment. Re-test for manganese after any treatment system is installed to make sure levels are below the advisory level.

Specialty Filters
Manganese is removed as the water flows through the filter.

Oxidation Filtration
This treatment uses chlorine, air or peroxide followed by a filter.

Cation Exchange Treatment
A conventional water softener (also called a cation exchange softener) exchanges manganese for sodium or potassium, which remains in the water. The manganese is flushed away with the wastewater when the softener is cleaned. This type of treatment is typically installed as a whole house system (point-of-entry or POE).

Financial Assistance: Is there funding available to help me pay for water system or treatment?

Vermont Wastewater and Potable Water Revolving Loan Fund
This program, also known as the On-Site Loan Program, is available to certain Vermont residents for the repair or replacement of failed water supply and on-site wastewater systems. The On-Site Loan Program is funded and administered by the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation with loan underwriting and servicing provided by the Opportunities Credit Union in Winooski. Your drinking water supply has to be a failed system and you must be living in the residence on a year-round basis to be eligible. The family income cannot exceed 200% of the state median household income. For more information about eligibility and how to apply, call the On-Site Loan Program at 802-461-6051.

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Vermont
The NeighborWorks Alliance is made up of five local organizations offering full affordable housing services for income-eligible individuals. You may qualify for help from this program if you need money to install a water treatment system, drill a well, or repair or replace your septic system. For more information on eligibility, contact the local NeighborWorks Group in your region.

Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants
This program offers loans and grants to existing homeowners for well construction, repair and sealing. It's administered by the Rural Development office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is for low-income families who live in a rural area or a community with a population of 25,000 or less. The family income cannot exceed 50% of the median county income. Individuals who are 62 years of age or older may qualify for a grant or a combination of a loan and a grant. Younger applicants are eligible only for loans.

Burlington, South Burlington, Essex Junction, Winooski and parts of Colchester are ineligible for the program. Even if your property is in an eligible area, your eligibility is still subject to income limits. For more information or to find out if your property is in an eligible area, call the USDA Rural Development Office at 802-828-6022.