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Old 08-05-2010, 12:34 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Location: Shakedown Street
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How to remove sulphur from water?

We have dissolved sulphur in our well water. Blech. Tastes awful, particularly in winter and when flow-through in the well is low. If we let water sit in a glass for a while the sulphur escapes and the taste isn’t unpalatable, but that doesn’t do us any good for cooking, showering, etc. It’s endemic to the area, so it’s not localized bacteria or the result of plumbing (e.g., it’s in both the hot and cold water). The pre-sales inspector (about five or six years ago) noted that our water was extraordinarily soft, so a softener is not needed, just some way of removing the sulphur.

We’re aware of three technologies—chlorine, greensand, and aeration—but most information we’ve found is generally too basic, broad, or coming from someone trying to sell us on their method/product. Our little experience with water treatment companies (we looked into this for a bit several years ago) left a lot to be desired. I’m not sure where they fall, but in our experience they’re somewhere between used car and stereo equipment salesmen.

Any Doper experience with this? Can a home chlorination system be foolproof/safe enough to use with an infant in the house? Can all the chlorine and its by-products be filtered out? Same thing with the greensand—foolproof and safe? Any reason to choose between the two? Aeration depends on sulphur concentration levels—how do we measure something so transient?

Any direction will be greatly appreciated!
Old 08-05-2010, 01:26 PM
robby robby is offline
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Location: Connecticut, USA
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Nitpick: in the U.S., it's sulfur.

Anyway, I don't have any direct experience with sulfur in well water. One thing I can tell you is that you ultimately need to get someone to install and maintain any treatment system you choose, so you need a water treatment company you can trust.

Our well water has high levels of dissolved iron in it. I thought that the best treatment for this was either an oxidation system and/or a manganese greensand filter. However, I could not get any local water treatment company to stand behind either system, so I ended up having a water softener installed, which is the conventional treatment method around here for high iron.

However, the water softener adds sodium and/or potassium to our water, and necessarily softens the water, whereas I am used to harder water.

If you can find a water treatment company you trust, they will test your water, install a system, and guarantee their work.
Old 08-05-2010, 01:37 PM
panman_1960 panman_1960 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 109
My friend in north Florida had this problem with his well. He put in an aerator. There are a number of ways I've heard to do it, and you can research the web. Fish tank aerators are inexpensive and may work, but are probably the bottom end. I don't know how your holding tank is set up from your pump, but you could use some type of rotating sprikler head upside down at the top of the holding tank, and have a float type shutoff switch.

I live in south Florida and rent a place during the week that has the same problem, and these folks have a chlorinator that takes care of the sulpher problem. They seem to always have somebody working on it though.

later, Tom.

Last edited by panman_1960; 08-05-2010 at 01:38 PM.
Old 08-05-2010, 01:42 PM
jasg jasg is online now
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Technically, it is probably Hydrogen Sulfide, not sulfur (which is in insoluble) in your water.

Google uncovers this:
Old 08-05-2010, 07:26 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Leominster MA
Posts: 5,221
First are you confident dissolved sulfur is the problem? I ask because in my neck of the woods actual sulfur is rarely the real source of the problem. Other things like anode rods or bacterias can also produce sulfur or sulfur smells. Make sulfur is your problem before you pay out money treating for it.

Aeration is crap, avoid it. It is a last resort for problems that companies like to sell as a fix all solution for many water issues. Overall it causes more problems then it solves.

Activated carbon can also take out sulfur but it's capacity to do so is limited. It can only absorb so much before it's life is exhausted. In very low levels of sulfur the cheapest and easiest solution is a carbon cartridge filter. Measurements and price analysis must be made. IE if a cartridge has the capacity to take all your sulfur out for 2 months it's a good idea. If the amount in your water is such that it lasts 2 days a 30 dollar cartridge every 2 days is a bad solution.

Greensand will depend on the amount of sulfur and the other qualities of the water. It can be a solution, but is not a good one for all waters, the right conditions must be there. This would be the lowest maintenance solution. The greensand is charged with a powerful oxidizer potassium permanganate. It changes the state of various minerals and allows for physical filtration, which greensand is also very good at. Maintenance required is occasionally adding purple powder to a bicket sized tank.

Chlorination is the most flexible solution. It works in a wide variety of water conditions. Two basic types are chemical feed and chlorinating canister. When using chlorine you are forcing the sulfur out of the water into a solid state, so it has to go somewhere.

I'd advise against chemical feed pumps. they have many similarity in sales and performance to Aeration systems. A chemical feed would allow for the minimal amount of chlorine to combat the sulfur. It pumps a set amount of chlorine into the water as it is run. Ideally a balance to be enough to knock out the sulfur but not enough to be noticed. Maintenance is occasional adding liquid chlorine to a tank. Sometime the pumps may be followed by a physical filter or a carbon filter(which to a lesser degree is also a physical filter).

With a chlorinating canister you are using chlorine pellets not unlike(or in some cases the same) the pellets many people use for their pools. The water flows through the pellets and is chlorinated to it's maximum potential, thus forcing any sulfur out. After the canister is a carbon filter, I recommend a large permanent one but I've know some companies to simply follow up with a cartridge filter. Maintenance for this type of system is required every 6 months to a year, sometimes longer duration is based on water quality. For maintenance the canister has to be dissembled and thoroughly cleaned and new pellets added. When I started working for a water treatment company we used to provide instructions for customers to do this themselves, so it is within some peoples capacities, these days we recommend all customers hire a professional to do this for safety and liabity reasons. Meaning a 200 dollar service call is needed periodically

Not all customers could follow instructions well resulting in many problems, such as chemical burns from poor handling of the unit/pellets, melted canisters/parts due to people mixing incompatible pellets, and poor flow due to people not being complete in the cleaning. Thus we gave up on trying to save people from paying for those service calls.

Back to activated carbon again. Carbons capacity for sulfur is limited, it can take out a set level of sulfur measured in pounds. Carbons capacity for chlorine however is measured in tons. Which is why you would first treat the sulfur with chlorine, then use the the carbon to treat the chlorine problem.

I'm sorry this is broken up and probably doesn't read well. I've been handling other stuff and tabbing back periodically.

In summary,
You need to find a professional in your area familiar with treatment of sulfur. They need to be honest reliable and able to service the equipment in the future.
That person needs to confirm your problem is sulfur.

My recommendation for treatment is:
If a carbon cartridge is sufficient and economical use it.
Baring that use greensand if the right conditions are met.
After that consider a chlorinating canister followed by carbon.
Aeration and chemical feed are poor choices I'd avoid them if possible.

Good luck.


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