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Stinky - Rotten Egg - Odor
Last Updated: 06/17/2015
Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that causes an obnoxious rotten egg odor in your water.
Most noticeable when water is first turned on ( because the gas separates from the water and collects in the pipes as the water sits ).

If you notice this smell in your water, it probably contains hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. Sources of this gas include:

  • Decay of organic matter or chemical reactions with sulfur-containing minerals in soil and rock.
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria which convert naturally occurring sulfate and other sulfur compounds to hydrogen sulfide gas.
  • Water heaters can produce hydrogen sulfide gas by:
    • Providing a warm environment for sulfate-reducing bacteria to live.
    • The anode, which is usually magnesium, supplies electrons that sustain the reaction of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas.

Should hydrogen sulfide gas or sulfur-reducing bacteria concern me?

The hydrogen sulfide gas levels found in well water is not harmful to your health ( but friends and relatives will let you know your house stinks when they walk in the door). There is also the problem of sulfur-reducing bacteria generating ( growing ) a slime that can promote the growth of other bacteria and clog wells and plumbing as thick layers start breaking off from pipes and inside of any tanks.

  • Hydrogen sulfide gas will cause black staining of silverware and plumbing fixtures
  • Will corrode galvanized and copper pipes ( the higher the level of H2S, the faster this will occur ).
  • Also known to corrode the copper coils in central air conditioners and refrigerators.


    How do I determine the source?

    Run water separately from both the cold and hot taps, preferably when you have been away from the house for a few hours so your sense of smell is more keen.

    • If the smell is only from the hot water tap, the source is most likely your water heater.
    • If the smell is from both hot and cold taps, but only from water treated by a water softener, you may have sulfur-reducing bacteria in your water softener.
    • If the smell is from both taps and diminishes after the water runs, you may have sulfur-reducing bacteria in your well or piping.
    • If the smell is from both taps and is persistent, you may have hydrogen sulfide gas in your groundwater

    How can I eliminate hydrogen sulfide gas?

    If the source is hydrogen sulfide gas in the groundwater the water may be treated by:

    • Activated carbon filters for hydrogen sulfide concentrations less than 1 mg/L.
    • Manganese greensand filters for hydrogen sulfide concentrations up to 6 mg/L.
    • Oxidation filtration systems ( Aerator ) for hydrogen sulfide concentrations of any level up to 5mg/L. ( high levels require adding chlorination and carbon filtration).
    • Chlorine injection system with 120 gallon contact tank and 1 ( or 1.5 ) cu.ft. Carbon Tank with backwashing valve after ward, and the problem is less then 3 mg/l ( ppm ).


  • The proper size equipment, levels of chemicals, and frequency of cleaning all depend on the amount of H2S in the water and how much water you use on a daily basis. So, the first thing you need to do, before purchasing or adjusting equipment for H2S removal is to get an accurate test of the level in the water.

    This is best done on site after running the source water for about 5 minutes. Professional water treatment dealers have the test kits to accurately measure the levels in your water source, and will often test for free ( of course they will want to sell you some equipment too ), or kits can be purchased online $ 50 - $ 100 is the common price range for a professional kit ).

    *** Low Cost for Low Level Test Kit ( 2 ppm or less )

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