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Remlik 04-05-2011 01:25 PM

Weird Hydrogen Sulfide Issue
I have a new custom home with a very deep well (600') in a waterfront area on the Chesapeake Bay of Virgina. It is a high yielding well delivering over 30GPM so no storage tank is necessary. I do have a pressure tank. I am reasonably certain I have low levels of hydrogen sulfide in my water but it only manifests itself in two very specific situations, both of which are very irritating!

All of the water from all of my taps for the entire house smells fine and taste fine, including water from the hot water tank. I have zero issues with utilizing the water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. Outside of being very soft and hard to make soap or get soap out of your hair, it is fine. However, water from my hand held pressure sprayer in my main kitchen sink and ice from my automatic ice maker in my refriegerator produce the tell tale rotten egg smell.

The sprayer, when you first start spraying will knock you down with the rotten egg smell and then clear up very quickly with no further smell until it goes unused for a little while and you happen to use it again. The water from the cold water dispenser on the fridge tastes and smells fine. The icemaker is a different story. The ice when mixed with a liquid will produce a foul taste. I cannot use ice from my icemaker which is the most irritating of the two problems.

The only thing these two problems seem to have in common is the water in the sprayer hose and the automatic ice maker are both possibly in some form of oxygen depleted environment and is delivered/under pressure. The water coming from the well is passed through a pressure tank first so I am not sure that pressure is any issue versus low/no oxygen. It baffles me how only these two sources are noticeable or cause any problem.

I was hoping there might be some solutions here short of whole house solutions. Maybe some local active carbon filitering, etc. Any ideas on all this would be appreciated.


CharlieO 04-05-2011 03:09 PM

You best option is to take a clean sample to a local testing lab,just google it.
for a few dollars they will tell you what is in the water and the best way to treat it.

Redwood 04-05-2011 05:56 PM

My guess is you have colonies of sulfate reducing bacteria living in both locations. You may get temporary relief by flushing a sterilizing mixture of bleach and water through both locations for 10 minutes. how to accomplish that I'm not too sure.

They wouldn't exist without the presence of sulfur in your water so at a minimum you are probably looking at a treatment for that. SpeedBump will probably be along shortly and could tell you more. He's a well and pump expert not me.

Speedbump 04-06-2011 06:57 AM

The only explanation I have is bacteria. Not necessarily Sulphur reducing, but some sort of bacteria. Probably harmless, but stinkie. I have the feeling you don't use these two items very often. That gives them a chance to breed in the pipes and when you open the faucet or make ice, the smell comes with the water for a short time.

I have a couple of instances that resemble this. One is a 50 and over community friends live in. They are on chlorinated city water, but the water still stinks in the bathrooms in the club house. These bathrooms are only used occasionally. They are also a long way from where the chlorine gets injected.

The other is my Dad's place in Florida. He's a snowbird so I have to go down every fall and turn things on, chlorinate the well and run the stinkie well water off until the chlorine kills the little guys off and the fresh water starts filling the pipes again.

Bacteria fart just like we do and this is the smell. I know, I could have left that part out.

joecaption 04-06-2011 07:44 AM

I also live right on the bay and this is a very common problem.
I also would suggest you get the water tested, but I would have a local plumbing supply test it or an independent lab check it. If you go to Water Pro or any of the other local water treatment places I'll guaranty they will find something wrong and then try and charge you an arm and a leg to fix it.
It's hard water not soft water that causes soap not to suds up.
I've never in 15 years not seen a home in this area without a water softener, or at least need one because all the clothes turn brown.
90% of the time just adding a whole house carbon filter before the pressure tank takes care of the odor problem. I install a valve on each side so I can shut it off depressurize it and remove the canister to change it. I also add to tees with gauges so I can tell when there's a pressure drop and know when to change it. The cartriges for a whole house carbin filter are expencive so it's cheaper in the long run to buy the gauges.

Speedbump 04-06-2011 07:49 AM


90% of the time just adding a whole house carbon filter before the pressure tank takes care of the odor problem
I would change that to AFTER the pressure tank if you want to add an in line filter. If you let one get plugged up, you can take out the pump. Always put filtration after the switch/tank to be safe.

Redwood 04-06-2011 08:30 AM


Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 55667)
90% of the time just adding a whole house carbon filter before the pressure tank takes care of the odor problem.

As SpeedBump stated make sure it is after the pump switch or, the pump is toast!

I differ with the idea that adding a whole house activated charcoal filter is a good idea. On a municipal supplied chlorinated system it would remove chlorine from the water allowing the bacterial to grow quite well. This could make the problem much worse, in any case it is not going to remove the component from the water that is actually allowing the bacteria to grow.

joecaption 04-07-2011 04:49 AM

2- Hydrogen sulfide in drinking water detail

Remlik 04-07-2011 11:00 AM

Thanks for all the responses. I have a theory too, now that I have read some of these suggestions and some other internet information. The house was built in 2007 and I have had this problem since early on. However, before I got the occupancy permit I remember we failed the water test due to a bacteria issue but I was told at the time that it was possibly something in the tank. Sulfide reducing bacteria was not mentioned at the time, the water looked and tasted good and I never smelled anything so it never came to mind. At the time I do not remember even trying the sprayer or checking the ice. They performed a chlorine shock treatment to the system at the well head and ran all the taps for an hour or so - of course no one was living there so it sat for a number of days, maybe a week or so, before we got the new tests conducted and successfully got a permit issued. I am thinking maybe the sprayer hose in the sink and the ice maker were two places where the water was not flushed through the system AT ALL and the chorline never made sufficient contact with the surfaces in those areas and maybe they are now infected??? I just don't think anyone would have sprayed the sprayer at that time or flushed water through the ice maker. If not, maybe Speedbump is correct in that its some other form of bacteria, not necessarily sulfide reducers, living in there since those two systems are used much less than anything else. It is just a summer home and gets infrequent use though we do go all year long (just not as much in winter except for Rockfishing Season:))

Since it is only these two spots maybe I can try to disinfect them or add some localized active carbon treatment (undersink) or both. And as to hardness/softness of water, the water feels very "soft", suds up OK, it just wont wash soap off your skin or hair easily! It does not seem to turn our clothes any colors.

Thanks for the posts.


Speedbump 04-08-2011 07:00 AM


Since it is only these two spots maybe I can try to disinfect them or add some localized active carbon treatment (undersink) or both.
Carbon filters are breeding grounds for bacteria since chlorine can't make it through the filter, the bacteria can live and breed with no problems. I would just run the faucets and the ice maker a lot until the smell goes away, or if possible try to get some chlorine into those lines and let it soak for a day or two.

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