Many American homes receive water from a private well which is used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and many other tasks. But, well water may have a bad odor that makes the water unpalatable and unpleasant to use. In this article, we will take a closer look at well water odors and how you can remove them.

Why Does My Water Have a Rotten Egg Odor?

This is a common complaint amongst private well water users, and this bad smelling water is delivered to every faucet and plumbing fixture. Drinking bad smelling water and taking a shower in it is a bad experience that most people want to avoid. If you look closely, you may even notice rusty particles in the water too. The source of this bad odor is hydrogen sulfide; this chemical compound is known by a number of other names, including sewer gas, swamp gas, sour damp, and more.

Understanding Hydrogen Sulfide

This is a colorless gas with a distinctive foul rotten egg odor that’s heavier than air. This is why hydrogen sulfide collects in enclosed spaces like private well steel casings. In lower concentrations, hydrogen sulfide has an unpleasant odor that makes the water unpalatable for drinking, cooking, and showering. But, in higher concentrations, this gas is toxic and flammable, and removing it should be a priority.

Why is Hydrogen Sulfide in the Well Water?

Hydrogen sulfide is a bacterial byproduct found in groundwater. This sulfate-reducing bacteria absorbs the sulfate ions found in water, and this triggers a chemical process in the cell that releases the gas. This is the primary source, but there are other possible sources to consider, including pollutants, decaying plant material, geographic characteristics, and chemical reactions that occur on metal surfaces in water heaters and private wells.

Is Hydrogen Sulfide a Health Threat?

Yes, exposure to toxic hydrogen sulfide gas may cause headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and a loss of taste or smell. These negative health effects can be experienced at relatively low exposure levels. But, if the hydrogen sulfide gas concentration is higher at around 1,000 – 2,000 ppm (parts per million), inhaling any quantity could be immediately fatal. Because hydrogen sulfide is heavy, it tends to collect in lower areas, and if it’s exposed to a naked flame, it can cause an explosion. Hydrogen sulfide can also act as a weak acid which can corrode plumbing pipes and damage your water using appliances.

How Can I Remove Hydrogen Sulfide?

Adding a well water filter will remove that foul rotten egg odor and the potential threats to your health. This is a 2-stage process; the initial filter stage traps the sediment, rust, and scale particles. The second stage uses a granular activated carbon /GAC) filter to remove the hydrogen sulfide and certain other chemical contaminants.

If you have hydrogen sulfide in your well, contact your local water treatment specialist, and they can install a GAC filtration system to fix the problem for you.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.