How to Deal with Strange Odors in Your Well Water Supply

Well Water

A common problem for many people whose homes are supplied by well water is the smell coming out of the taps. Whether you have hard or soft water, if your home has a well, it could cause some odor. This can be very unpleasant and potentially dangerous if you don’t know what might be causing it. When you turn on your faucet and smell something strange, it could be caused by one of these substances:

Sulfur can cause smelly water.

Sulfur smells like rotten eggs and can give off an unpleasant odor even before you turn on the faucet. Sulfur is a naturally occurring element that makes up part of the earth’s crust. It’s found in many foods and minerals, including eggs, milk, cheese, other dairy products, and meat—including beef, chicken, and fish. Sulfur can cause a bad smell in your tap water. If you have sulfur-smelling water, it may be due to a high hydrogen sulfide gas concentration in the water. This can happen when there is a problem with your water supply, such as when an underground spring runs dry or a leak in the pipes that carry water from the well to your house.

Hydrogen Sulfide can cause a rotten egg smell.

Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that can be released when water comes in contact with certain rocks. This can happen naturally or be caused by the decomposition of organic matter in your well. It’s important to note that hydrogen sulfide is not harmful; rather, this unpleasant odor indicates that something else is happening inside your well that requires attention.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs at low concentration levels in the air. It is commonly known as sewer gas, stink damp, and manure gas. At high concentration levels, it has a sickeningly sweet odor. At extremely high levels, a person can lose their ability to smell the gas and become unaware of its presence. This condition, known as olfactory fatigue, can also occur when people have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide for longer. Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air and can build up in low-lying areas and enclosed spaces.

A high hydrogen sulfide gas concentration might also be dangerous because it can kill plants and animals. If enough gas is present in your home, it may be wise to call a professional. Hydrogen sulfide sources are organic material—such as dead animals or plants— and rocks containing sulfur compounds such as pyrite (fool’s gold).

Sulfur smells like rotten eggs because it’s produced by bacteria that feed on organic matter in the water supply. The bacteria release hydrogen sulfide gas, which has an offensive odor and taste. Sulfur is less common than iron or manganese, but it’s still a problem. 

If you notice a sulfur-like odor or taste in your well water, it could be caused by sulfur bacteria growing in the well casing or piping system. 

Iron can cause smelly water

Iron is a mineral found in most water sources in Central Indiana. It’s essential for human health, but too much can cause damage to your plumbing and appliances. Iron can also cause a rotten egg smell and a metallic taste in your drinking water. Toilet tanks, faucets, and even sinks may contain iron deposits that can leach into the water supply. Iron also gets into water from natural sources like dirt or rocks filled with iron-bearing minerals like limestone and sandstone.

Iron helps to carry oxygen in the blood and create red blood cells—your body uses iron to form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all body parts. When iron levels are too low, it can cause anemia. But when they’re too high, it can cause problems too. When you get too little iron, you can develop iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin. 

Iron is one of the most common minerals found in nature, and it occurs naturally in many foods, including spinach, soybeans, and red meat. In addition to being an essential nutrient for humans, iron also plays an important role in plant growth because it is necessary for photosynthesis.

Iron has two common compounds—ferrous sulfate (FeSO4) and ferric sulfate (Fe2(SO4)3). Ferrous sulfate prevents bacteria from growing in swimming pools, while ferric sulfate is used as a food additive to make bread look darker, so it will last longer on store shelves.

Iron can cause a “rusty nail” smell, metallic taste, and dark coloration in water. Iron is most commonly found in the household water supply as it can come from the corrosion of iron pipes, fixtures, and appliances. The presence of iron in drinking water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

If you are experiencing any odor issues with your water supply, you may have a high iron level in your well.

Manganese can cause smelly water

Manganese is necessary for good health; it aids digestion, increases bone strength, and strengthens immune system function. As such, too little or too much manganese intake may be harmful. Breathing high concentrations of manganese dust and fumes (e.g., welding) over the course of years has been associated with toxicity to the nervous system in workers, producing a syndrome that resembles Parkinson’s Disease. It is unclear if drinking water with high concentrations of manganese can also cause harm to the nervous system.  Manganese is a mineral naturally occurring in rocks, soil, groundwater, surface water, and food and is a normal part of the human diet.  It exists in well water as a naturally occurring groundwater mineral but may also be present due to pollution sources.  At concentrations greater than 0.05 milligrams per liter (mg/L), manganese may cause a noticeable color, odor, or taste in water.  However, potential health effects from manganese are not a concern until concentrations are approximately six times higher.   

You may suspect that manganese is in your water if the water is discolored (brownish-red), causes plumbing fixtures (faucets, sinks) or clothing stains, or has an off-taste or odor. 

Chlorine can cause a bad smell in your city water

Chlorine can cause a bad smell in your city water. It kills bacteria in the water supply but can also cause skin irritation and other symptoms if you’re allergic to chlorine. If you notice that your city’s public works department uses more chlorine than usual, it could be causing an unpleasant odor in your tap water.

How to Eliminate the Strange Odors in Your Well Water Supply

  • Water softeners are great at removing the mineral deposits that can cause strange odors in your well water supply.
  • AIOs are the most common type of treatment for odor reduction and are an effective and economical way to remove iron without using messy and dangerous chemicals or expensive pumps. AIO filters add oxygen to the incoming water by passing it through a pocket of compressed air, oxidizing the ferrous iron. The water is then passed through a special filter bed that increases the pH of the water to enhance iron removal and traps iron precipitate. As more water passes through the iron filter, the oxygen in the unit is used up, and the media gets loaded with iron. The regeneration process then replenishes the oxygen supply and backwashes the precipitated iron trapped in the media bed. The resulting water has no smell or taste of rotten egg gas (H2S). Aeration equipment may also remove other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contribute to bad tastes and odors in your tap water supply, including chlorine and its byproducts (chloramines), chloroform, trihalomethanes (THMs), and other organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in gasoline exhaust fumes.
  • BIF chemical-free iron filter uses natural oxidation to remove iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide without chemicals, air pumps, or a venturi. Like the AIO, incoming raw water passes through the first tank’s compressed air pocket. The air precipitates the iron into solid form and is removed when it passes through the filter media bed in the second tank. The media acts as a  catalyst in the reaction between iron and oxygen, which also causes the iron to precipitate into a solid. This low-maintenance two-tank system regenerates less frequently than traditional iron filters and uses up to 50% less water than single-tank iron filters. These units are a good option if your water has excessive iron content.
  • UV light units kill microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses in your well water supply. They do not remove VOCs or reduce hydrogen sulfide content—only kill microorganisms that may be present in your well water supply before it gets to your home.
  • If used properly, activated carbon filters in reverse osmosis can effectively remove odors from drinking water..

C&J Well Company has solutions for your smelly water

C&J Well Co. has solutions for your smelly water. We have a wide range of products that can remove odors from your well water, such as AIO (Air Induction Oxidation), carbon block and activated carbon, reverse osmosis systems, and more. 

We hope this article has helped you understand what is causing the strange odors in your well water supply and how to eliminate them. If you have any questions or concerns about the information we’ve covered, please contact us at C&J Well Co today!