There are a few common indicators that often signal an issue in your water well, and one of the most common areas here is that of odors. The “rotten egg” smell is one that some are familiar with, and the most likely culprit if this is the case in your well is an issue related to the presence of sulfur gas.
At Mike Zimmerman Well Service, LLC, we provide not only water well drilling, but also well pump services, well rehabilitations and many other forms of service if your well is experiencing issues. Why is sulfur sometimes an issue in wells, what are the risks it poses if it’s present, and what should be done to get rid of it – either on your own or with the help of our professionals? Here’s everything you need to know.
Why Sulfur Is Sometimes a Well Issue
Sulfur gas is one that’s naturally occurring in many forms of bacteria, and there are some cases where this bacteria seeps into well water through the ground, meaning the water you are using is contaminated. This can happen if your well casing is not sealed properly or if the well was otherwise damaged during installation.
Sulfur gas can also collect in stagnant water and bacteria can feed on it and cause an increase in sulfur gas levels. This most commonly happens when a pump stops working, so if your well pump stops working, it’s important to get it back online as soon as possible.
Finally, it may also sometimes come from your plumbing system or pipes that are contaminated by sulfur. This may come from inside your own system, or in other cases it could be due to improper runoff from your local water sources.
Risks of Sulfur in the Water
The presence of sulfur gas in water can lead to a number of issues if not addressed – most notably, a rotten egg odor in your water, but also taste and health concerns. The smell is usually the most noticeable symptom, but it can also cause discoloration of fixtures and laundry. Health risks are higher if ingested in high quantities – leading to an upset stomach, nausea, headaches, and other potential issues.
What Should You Do?
If you experience a strong rotten egg smell in your well water, the first thing you should do is check to confirm that sulfur is indeed the issue. We recommend checking both your hot and cold water sources here, using a hose bib or tap as close to the well as you can get. If the smell is present in both, then sulfur gas could be the issue – if not, it’s more likely that your plumbing system is contaminated, so you’ll need to address that separately.
If testing confirms sulfur gas is the issue, there are a couple things that need to be done:
- Testing: Firstly, you need to test the water – both as a secondary confirmation of the presence of sulfur gas, and to figure out the source. This test will include pH analysis, iron, manganese, hardnesss, and total coliform.
- Removal: We’ll go over your options for removal of sulfur gas in our next section.
Sulfur Removal Options
There are several robust options for removing sulfur gas from your water well, and which is chosen will depend on a few factors – the source of the sulfur gas, the level of contamination, and what you’re comfortable with in terms of maintenance.
- Use a carbon filter: In cases where sulfur odor is found without any iron or manganese issues also present, the best course of action is usually the use of an activated carbon filter. This is a great solution for removing sulfur gas from the water, and it’s relatively affordable and simple to maintain.
- Chlorine shock: In cases where odors are especially pungent, chlorine shock may be a better option. This is a more aggressive form of treatment, and it should only be done with extreme caution – under the guidance of a professional or licensed contractor who has experience in sulfur gas removal.
- Chlorinator: Another form of chlorine usage that’s sometimes used is the chlorinator system. This works by introducing chlorine continuously into the water system, with a control valve regulating how much chlorine is used. This can be effective against sulfur gas but it needs to be monitored closely and adjusted as needed in order to be successful.
- Hydrogen peroxide: In other cases, instead of a chlorinator, hydrogen peroxide can be used in order to treat the water. This is not as common and it needs to be done with proper knowledge of well water treatment.
- Compressor aeration tank: Typically installed along with a backwash carbon or iron filter, a compressor aeration tank is a great way to reduce sulfur gas and other contaminants in your well water. This works by introducing air into the system, which oxidizes the sulfuric acid and reduces odors.
- Ozone gas injection: While this option is quite expensive, it’s especially effective against sulfur gas and other contaminants. Ozone gas is injected into the water, oxidizing the sulfuric acid and reducing unpleasant odors.
The presence of sulfur gas in your well water can be a serious issue, leading to not only an unpleasant odor but also health risks if ingested in high concentrations. It’s important to identify the source of the sulfur gas and to use one of these options for removal. With the right treatment, you can ensure your water is safe and free from odor and other contaminants.
For more here, or to learn about any of our water well installation or service solutions, speak to our team at Mike Zimmerman Well Service, LLC today.