Why does my water stink?
Water that is giving off a distinctive “rotten egg” smell is most likely contaminated with hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide does not usually pose immediate health problems at the levels that are found in domestic drinking supplies. However, it is certainly an inconvenience — especially to one’s nose.
What is it?
Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that can exist naturally in groundwater. Bacteria present in groundwater, uses sulfur as an energy source to chemically change sulfates to hydrogen sulfide. The bacteria use sulfur from decaying plants and other organic matter in oxygen-deficient environments. They can occur in deep or shallow wells and reside in plumbing systems. Yes, they live in your plumbing, pipes, hot water tank, etc.
Is it harmful?
Hydrogen sulfide gas is flammable and poisonous at high concentrations. Usually it is not a health risk at concentrations present in household water.
Health effects vary with how long, and at what level, you are exposed. Asthmatics may be at greater risk.
- Low concentrations – irritation of eyes, nose, throat, or respiratory system; effects can be delayed.
- Moderate concentrations – more severe eye and respiratory effects, headache, dizziness, nausea, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
- High concentrations – shock, convulsions, unable to breathe, coma, death; effects can be extremely rapid (within a few breaths).
Other issues are that Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive and can leach metals from plumbing systems into the water. Corrosion of metals by hydrogen sulfide forms a black precipitate that can stain laundry and bathroom fixtures, darken silverware, and discolor copper and brass utensils.
Now that you know what it is, let's figure out how treat it:
There are various methods of treatment. They should be chosen based on the level of hydrogen sulfide, the amount of water being treated, the levels of iron and manganese, and the water pH, among other factors. Methods to reduce or remove hydrogen sulfide include activated carbon filtration, shock chlorination, manganese greensand filtration, oxidation, oxidizing filtration, ozone treatment, and water heater modification. These are all great options, but the simplest method may be the use of a Cascadian Water ICS-H. The ICS-H system is small, easy to install, easy to understand, and has a changeable filter cartridge. There is no drain, electricity, or special knowledge required for this method.