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Water from the faucets smells like sulfur. Mildly concerned about it.

This post is actually for a friend of mine who lives way out in the boonies. I assume that this has been a problem for quite some time, as she now treats it like something she just has to "deal with," but all the water in her house that comes from a faucet has a strong, distinct smell of sulfur. It's not overpowering or sickening, but certainly unpleasant enough that any time I wash my hands, I have to hold my breath.

I suppose what I want to know is: how likely is it that this is directly harmful to human beings and animals? I mean, she showers in it, makes tea with it, cleans her dishes with it, and lets her pets drink it. Is it not one of the water company's duties to make sure that this isn't a serious problem? And, even assuming that it's completely harmless, why should anyone be forced to live with such an unpleasant odor day in and day out? Is there anything that can feasibly be done to "fix" the smelly water?

What's the best course of action to take in regards to getting the water tested and the odor neutralized?

Posts

  • GdiguyGdiguy San Diego, CARegistered User regular
    How 'way out in the boonies' are we talking about here (in particular, does she even have a water company? Or is it well water?)

  • Kristmas KthulhuKristmas Kthulhu Registered User regular
    Apparently, she does not, in fact, have to pay for water!

    She lives about twenty minutes out of town, and has to travel about a mile down a dirt road to reach her house, with two other houses spaced quite a ways away down said road.

  • JokermanJokerman Love is careless in its choosing. Registered User regular
    Well water often has sulfur in it, It's not harmfull or paticular worrysome.

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  • chrishallett83chrishallett83 Hi! Registered User regular
    There are inline filters that can be installed for a reasonable amount of money that should get rid of most of the nasties out of her water and cut down the smell as well. It's pretty much a big plastic cylinder that unscrews and you change out the filter element inside as needed.

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  • MechMantisMechMantis Registered User regular
    Welcome to the boonies.

    You have sulfur in your water. Filter it out. It won't kill you, but it won't smell nice either.

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  • zerzhulzerzhul Old General Registered User, Super Moderator, Moderator, SolidSaints Zerzhul mod
    This is a pretty typical thing in certain areas. I have family that lives in a "sulfur water" area that doesn't bother filtering it or anything and just gets bottled water by the jug for things where they want it a bit more pure (baking, etc).

  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    Most people I've known who have sulfury water just keep a brita or lemonade container in the fridge for their drinking water, since the sulfur will offgas after a short while.

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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    Yeah. Common thing. Completely harmless. You get used to it really fast (for me it took about a week when I was staying in one such area), which is why it doesn't bother your friend like it bothers you.

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  • Kristmas KthulhuKristmas Kthulhu Registered User regular
    Well, okay, then. Thanks for all the responses, it certainly makes me feel better.

  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    Definitely common. Might want to make sure however that it is in fact all water and not just hot water --you can get bacteria in hot water tanks in some circumstances that do the same thing (again, not harmful.) There's some trick for getting rid of them by turning up the water heater if such is the case, but I've never had occasion to do it so I don't know the specifics.

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  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    I saw an antifracking video where they light water on fire, see if her water can be set alight, however I'm a big fan of filtering it.

  • Ramen EmpireRamen Empire 先生 北京Registered User regular
    I have to deal with sulfur water, and I live in a proper town. It's nothing to worry about. :)

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  • EvigilantEvigilant VARegistered User regular
    edited January 2013
    I literally just did a report on Hydrogen Sulfide in water ("sulfur"/rotten egg smell in water) for my job.

    The sulfur like odor comes from Hydrogen sulfide, which occurs naturally and usually made apparent due to a water heater. If it continues to bother and inconvience them, they should have their water tested for nitrate and coliform bacteria. It has no effect on actual water quality other than this odor and taste. As long as it's not from pollution or sewage, there are no real serious health effects.

    If there is slime then bacteria will grow, mainly iron bacteria. The main problem with this is that it will clog plumbing and wells. You will know if slime is present if there is staining on plumbing fixtures or your silverware, or dis-colorization after washing clothes.

    If they don't have to purchase water, then they have a private well. They should call their local state water regulating agency to get the numbers for state testing laboratories. To order a test is usually pretty cheap, and the lab will send out a kit that then then should be mailed back to them for testing. There are methods on the internet that detail how to narrow down the source of this odor and taste. Some are easier/cheaper to fix than others.

    Edit:
    The trick with turning up the water heater temperature is if it's below it's usual operating temperature. Bacteria will grow because the water is at a cooler temperature than it should be at, so if you turn the temperature back up (taking mind of the pressure), then it will kill off the bacteria inside the tank.

    Most of the time, the problem lies at the well or the water heater. The water heater's magnesium rod, used to reduce corrosion of the tank, is usually the instigator.

    Here's a simple way to find the source:
    1. If the smell/taste is only from the hot water, it's most likely the water heater.
    2. If it's from both hot and cold water, most likely the water softener.
    3. If it's from both and goes away after the water has been run for awhile, or the smell varies, it's the well.
    4. If it's from both, and the smell/taste persists constantly at the same rate, then it's hydrogen sulfide gas in the well.

    Here's quick fixes if it's from the water heater:
    1. If it's the water heater: replace the magnesium anode.
    2. Disinfect and flush the water heater.
    3. Increase the temperature of the water heater for a few hours. Reduce the temperature when finished.

    If it's from the well, then they should call their state's water regulating agency.

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  • azith28azith28 Registered User regular
    Hum, My family had a well in Louisiana and our water never smelled bad, so I wonder if we did something special to avoid that or if it just depends on where the well is dropped.

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  • zagdrobzagdrob Registered User regular
    azith28 wrote: »
    Hum, My family had a well in Louisiana and our water never smelled bad, so I wonder if we did something special to avoid that or if it just depends on where the well is dropped.

    It depends.

    Where I grew up, the township I was in had horrible sulfur water. It was bad enough even after treatment that my parents installed a tank and had water hauled in. We only used well water for the hose / outside, and the neighboring town was just disgusting. The town was older / out of the way, and every building just reeked. One of the quarries outside of town was one of the best sources of sulfur in the country, and has some of the best and largest examples of sulfur specimens.

    As soon as they piped in fresh water the town exploded, but it didn't have any development until then. Well water was fine in all the neighboring townships.


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