We’ve got a contract on a little summer cottage and had the inspection today. Everything looks ok except that apparently there’s a strong sulfur smell when the water’s running. Any ideas for how to get rid of it? Are there specialized filtration systems, and do they work? We love the place but would also love to find a solution to this issue.
Is the smell only present when the hot water is running or is it there when just the cold water is running as well? If it’s only in the hot water then it’s probably a buildup of bacteria in the hot water tank and your best bet is to treat that rather than trying to filter it off afterwards.
If this is well water then the system should probably be evaluated by a professional to make sure you don’t have a problem like sewage or pollution contamination. It may be that treating the well with something like a chlorination shock will do the trick.
If you can’t take care of the problem at its source, then you can install filters on your water system. I’d recommend getting the filters installed as close to where the water enters your house as possible, because the hydrogen sulfide gas that is presumably causing your problem is corrosive to your plumbing. Filtering it up at the kitchen sink works fine for drinking but then the pipes elsewhere in your house rot out and you don’t want that.
There are different types of filter systems and I don’t have enough experience with any of them to make a recommendation. They do work, though they are generally chemical systems which means you need to periodically replace the filtering stuff.
I am guessing that this residence was not used for a long time and that the smell of sulfur is coming not from the water itself but from the drainage system. Can you confirm that ? Like fill up a glass of water from the faucet and smell it - does it smell ? If not, its really simple bacteria buildup in your drainage/sewage system. Just keep the water running and it will go away soon enough - a little bleach in the drains/sinks will speed it up.
The inspector was running everything at once, so it’s hard to tell, but my husband filled a water bottle with just cold and he says he did think he smelled it then. Course the whole house smelled like it at that point, so who knows.
Yeah, we are having the water tested as part of the inspection, as well.
We were doing a little preliminary research and it does look like there are some options in this regard. We’re going to call around and see if we can get someone to come out and give a recommendation. Good to know that there are solutions!
The water itself didn’t seem to smell, and my husband brought some home for me and it tasted pretty normal. It’s a tad yellow, though!
I’d suspect it will fade somewhat as you use water that may have been standing in the well for a while; once you’ve cycled through those couple of hundred gallons, it should be less noticeable.
If it’s not worth putting in a whole-house water treatment system, there are good undersink filtration units for about $100. I’d invest in one for drinking and cooking water (over pitcher-based or buying bottled, that is).
The other thing we discovered in pursuit of brown and stinky water elimination, was that what we had identified as “rust” or “brown water” was actually an iron bacteria growing in the well that was sometimes controllable by a couple of gallons of bleach down the well but never really disappeared until we pulled the pump and replaced the iron pipe with copper. Boom. Clean water.
when doing a shock chlorination of a well you need to have not too little, not too much but just right. too little or too much won’t disinfect and too much will damage plumbing and living things (that aren’t bacteria).
you need to know the well pipe depth, distance to water and well pipe diameter. wells often need permits and this information might have to be present at the well or on the property or be on file at a government agency.
figure the volume of water standing in the well. you need a volume of uncontaminated water at least as much as is standing in the well. in a clean plastic garbage can mix up this water with household bleach to be 100 to 300 ppm (parts per million) which is 3/4 to 2 quarts per 100 gallons. pour this down the well.
shut off pump. drain your pressure tank and water heater tank. bypass any water softener.
turn on pump. with a hose rinse down the sides of your well casing real well (ha punny). run all the hot and cold faucets until you smell chlorine from each faucet for both hot and cold.
let it stand for 24 hours.
after 24 hours run a hose outside until you don’t smell chlorine. don’t do this draining into your septic system. move the spray around to not kill vegetation. do not let this water run into a lake, pond or stream.
I don’t know much about the biology of the bacteria involved. You can call the water company and have them check the chlorine level. Maybe it’s low out where you are.
You can crank the water heater up on its highest setting and leave it there overnight. That will kill most bacteria in the tank. I have a boiler furnace so I always have hot (not warm) water and everyone in my family is used to it. If you have kids and they are used to warm water coming out of the faucet make sure you turn it back down before they use it so nobody gets burned.
You can also have a chemical reaction going on inside the water heater which isn’t bacteria at all. Replacing the anode rod in the water heater will often fix that.
Flushing the water heater with a couple of pints of hydrogen peroxide will kill a lot of bacteria and will get rid of a lot of smells.