“My water smells like rotten eggs” or “my well water smells like sulfur”. We often hear these comments from homeowners relying on well water in upstate NY. 'Sulfur water' is a common and very treatable problem for homeowners.
Why does my Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs?
When you run your water does it have a bad odor like rotten eggs or sulfur? While a specific water test procedure for sulfur will confirm it, it is possible you have a higher than normal concentration of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas or sulfur-reducing bacteria in your water source. Even extremely small amounts of hydrogen sulfide can cause your water to have quite the malodorous smell! Sulfur water is a common problem for many well owners, including our customersin Upstate New York where Safewelltech operates. The odor is a nuisance and likely off-putting to visitors. But it is not as difficult or expensive to correct as you might think. In this post we will summarize some of the practical issues a well owner should know about ‘sulfur water’ including:
Why most people smell it and others may not
Health, safety and potential financial considerations
The likely cause of sulfur in your water
Available sulfur treatment options
Why am I the Only Person in my Family who Smells Sulfur in the Water?
Hydrogen sulfide is very pungent to the human nose even at very low concentrations. Seventy-five percent of people can detect sulfur gaseous concentrations at levels quite near zero. However, with continuous low-level exposure a person will lose their ability to smell the gas. It may also seem to ‘come and go’ with incidental or seasonal changes in your water table or underground aquifer from which you pump due to varying levels of dilution or concentration of dissolved H2S in the water that accompany these ups and downs.
Is Sulfur in my Water a Health Risk?
Hydrogen sulfide in well water is generally not found in concentrations high enough to constitute a substantial health issue. However, there are possible exceptions, as well as factors that can lead to other types of damage worth mentioning.
Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive. Water with as little as 1 ppm can corrode iron, steel, copper, and brass found in pumps, faucets, appliances, and some well casings. Corrosion can leach metal into the drinking water.
In iron pipe, water with sulfate-reducing bacteria attacks the metal to form iron sulfide, which is deposited as insoluble iron scale in the pipe.
Flammability and suffocation risk at high concentrations. Consider the buildup of gas in the home as released from tap over time (accumulation) rather than only the amount captured in the moment of testing a small sample.
H2S is highly corrosive leading to staining pipes and silverware and corrosion of plumbing pipes leaching metals into water AND leading to plumbing failures (leaks).
If you are planning to sell your home now or in the foreseeable future, eliminating the odor of sulfur contamination now can avoid issues and costly fixes with potential buyers later.
What is the Cause of Sulfur in my Water?
The activity of sulfate-reducing bacteria in groundwater and underground geological formations is fundamentally responsible for most of the sulfide smells detected in water wells. In some cases, a well owner may only experience H2S because the bacteria that helped produce it are underground and far away from the well. In other cases, the bacteria itself makes its way into the well and then into low oxygen environments such as the home’s plumbing, hot water tanks, and water treatment systems.
How do I Eliminate Sulfur from my Well Water?
When hydrogen sulfide is present in a well system, three options are available:
(1) installing a water treatment system,
(2) deepening the existing well (requires installation of a liner), or
(3) drilling a new well in a new location to a different aquifer depth or formation.
If you suspect the odor you experience is related to your well water then we would recommend calling a professional well water contractor, such as Safewelltech. We have many happy customers who formerly had sulfur problems. We always begin with a free consultation and specific field test to confirm the cause of your problem. From there, we are able apply a range of treatment options appropriate to fit both your need and your budget.
To start your journey toward clean, safe water, schedule your free consultation today!