What Causes Stinky Well Water?


Quick Answer

Hydrogen sulfide gas can cause well water to give off a characteristic smell reminiscent of rotten eggs. This natural chemical either occurs naturally in groundwater or is produced by sulfur bacteria. In some instances, Hydrogen sulfide can contaminate well water due to pollution.

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Full Answer

Although hydrogen sulfide by itself does not affect the water's sanitary quality, the fact that the chemical can occur as a result of exposure to pollution or contamination makes it important to have smelly water tested immediately. Qualified well water testing services can determine with reasonable accuracy whether the smell is a result of health-threatening contamination or not. If a qualified technician finds that the well water is not safe to drink, it may be necessary to treat the water or seal the well. Numerous problems are associated with the presence of sulfur bacteria in well water, such as the growth of iron bacteria that can corrode pipes and other metal components of a plumbing system.

Well water experts can treat sulfurous well water by installing an activated carbon filter, an oxidizing filter or an oxidation-filtration system. An activated carbon filter can remove small amounts of hydrogen sulfide from drinking water, while an oxidizing filter can remove larger amounts and treat iron problems at the same time. A full oxidation-filtration system uses a chemical feed, often chlorine, to transform hydrogen sulfide into simple sulfur, which is easier to manage and remove in high quantities.

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