It’s bothersome to have water from the faucet smelling like rotten eggs. Well, the pungent odor is likely caused by elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur bacteria in the water. The presence of these impurities can compromise the quality of the household’s water supply.
In the US, over 300 chemicals can be found in drinking water. Most of these chemicals are used by treatment plants to kill the bacteria or other similar microorganisms present in the water.
It’s common for households to have peculiar odors coming from water pipes. This is true if the water is compromised at the source and maybe affecting a wide range of households.
Aside from high levels of sulfur in the water supply, a faulty water heater can also be the reason behind the smell. The chemical reaction within the heater can make the water smell like rotten eggs.
How to Test the Presence of Hydrogen Sulfide in Water
Since hydrogen sulfide gas is produced by sulfur bacteria, one way to check for the presence of hydrogen sulfide in water (aside from the distinctive rotten egg smell) is via a Biological Activity Reaction Test (BART).
It measures the activity of certain bacteria, including sulfur bacteria. Test-water A BART package can be bought online. The test package allows homeowners to monitor bacterial agents that cause water-fouling, clogging, and corrosion. It can also be used to keep track of microbes that may potentially cause disease.
The test does not require you to have an incubator or a microscope. The entire process can be completed at room temperature where the things can be viewed daily.
The bio detectors in the BART has nutrients in the base of a ball and a column. The ball prevents oxygen from entering the column to stop aerobic microorganisms from developing inside. This way, BART is able to measure the activity levels of the target strains.
Not only is the test easy to use, but it is also easy to analyze. Once the color changes, it means there are bacteria in the water sample. An interpretation guide is provided in the kit for your analysis
Solutions for Every Possible Source: A Quick DIY Guide
If the BART test comes positive and there are elevated levels of sulfur bacteria, coupled with the rotten eggs smell from the water, you need to get to the root of the problem and take appropriate steps towards the solution.
The first step is always to find where the problem occurs. You can isolate where the problem occurs by checking the tap and the water system in the house or building.
Source: If the smell comes out only when using hot water faucet, the problem is caused likely by a chemical reaction at the water heater. The heat unlocks the hydrogen sulfide gas.
Solution: Seek help from a bona fide boiler inspector. He has likely experienced solving this predicament before.
Source: If the smell does not discriminate on hot and cold faucets, check on the water softener. There are cases where the water softener has too much sulfur bacterium. Observe if the smell can be associated only with treated water and not with untreated water.
Solution: Change the solution used for the water softener. Make sure that it is not exposed to hydrogen-sulfide-producing organisms.
Source: If the rotten egg smell is present regardless of which water outlet is being used but goes away after the initial stream of water has run, there might be a problem in the water system of the community.
Solution: Contact the water utility provider so they can send a water assessor to check on the quality of water in your area.
Source: If the smell comes and goes without a distinguishable pattern, there might be a problem in the water distribution system.
Solution: Contact the water utility provider or the local government unit to check for contamination in the major water pipes in your community.
Source: If the smell comes out immediately after turning on both hot and cold tap, there’s a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the water source.
Solution: Alert the water provider as soon as possible since this can prove to be dangerous to everyone’s health.
How Can the Quality of Drinking Water Be Improved?
The water that comes from the faucet goes through different stages of treatment in water plants. Carcinogenic compounds were actually found in the drinking water that’s made available to 200 million Americans. Varying levels of mercury, lead, and arsenic can be found in the water supply.
Most of the contaminating compounds find their way to the water as a byproduct of various stages of water treatment.
For example, chromium-6 a known carcinogen that can be found in the water supply comes from the waste products of agriculture and manufacturing industries.
To improve the quality of drinking water and prevent odor-inducing agents such as hydrogen sulfide, water utility providers must check pipes regularly. These providers must also determine if industrial pollution, agricultural waste, or other human activities compromise the water supply’s quality.
The Small-Scale Approach: Finding a Good Water Filter
Filtering to get rid of impurities and pollutants can be the best option to safeguard the quality of water at home. Most filters simply get rid of zinc and chlorine to make tap water taste and smell better. The problem with these is that they’re unable to remove other more harmful contaminants.
Before purchasing a water filter, check the kinds of pollutants it is capable of removing. It’s also better to subject your water supply to laboratory testing to determine the impurities present. It makes sense to first know what to filter before purchasing a water filter.
Filters must also be changed on a regular basis. Old filters can breed bacteria and won’t work as effectively as intended.
Reverse Osmosis: Is the Top Filtration System Worth it?
Considered as the gold standard of water filtration systems, reverse osmosis water filters is an advanced system that subjects tap water to a 5 or 6 step process. It can be expensive, so is it really worth it?
Reverse osmosis filter systems employ a technology called carbon filtration. This technology makes sure that the water is clean by removing harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, hexavalent chromium, and arsenic.
Given the value of health at home, many households have reverse-osmosis systems installed in all water taps. This ensures that the water used for brushing teeth, cooking, and bathing is clean and safe for consumption.
Fighting the Odor: Getting Rid of that Rotten Egg Smell
As discussed, the rotten egg smell is caused by hydrogen sulfide gas produced by sulfur bacteria. Apart from contacting the water utility provider, there are six things you can try to get rid of the unwanted smell:
- If the smelly water comes from a newly-constructed well, shock the well with hydrogen peroxide or chlorine bleach. This method staves off the odor for 1 to 2 months.
- Install a chlorinator to the main water valve. This provides a continuous injection of chlorine to the running water. It gets rid of the sulfur bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide gas.
To completely eliminate the odors, however, you can also install an air charger carbon filter. This filter is self-cleaning and removes unwanted odor and chlorine residuals from the system.
Aside from getting a chlorinator, you can install a system that injects hydrogen peroxide instead. Compared to injecting chlorine in water, injecting hydrogen peroxide does not leave residues (such as salts) in the water.
If you’re not comfortable with injecting compounds like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, just install an air charger carbon filter. This system does not require chemicals but you still have the option to use peroxide to lengthen the effects of catalytic carbon.
Unlike other systems, an air charger carbon filter does not require constant filter change. A carbon cartridge lasts for several years and can be replaced easily.
Expensive yet very effective, injecting ozone gas in pressurized water removes sulfur bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide gas. The effect is quick and it keeps the water safe for human consumption.
You can also install an air compressor tank aeration system. By injecting air into water subjected to pressure, a foul odor is removed from the water supply.
Letting the Pros Handle It is the Best Course of Action
Water that contains hydrogen sulfide gas can easily be detected through the distinctive rotten egg smell. It is especially noticeable in heated water.
Depending on the severity of contamination, the water can discolor beverages such as tea, coffee, and juice. The hydrogen sulfide trapped in the water can both be a nuisance and a health risk. In high concentrations, it can be poisonous as well as flammable.
Getting rid of the rotten egg smell can be done by getting in touch with your water utility provider. Although you can handle this concern the DIY way, it’s always better to have it sorted by those with specialized tools, knowledge, and experience.