To most people, there is nothing more revolting than tap water that suddenly takes on the odor of rotten eggs. According to a recent study at Purdue University, foul-smelling and strange odors coming from your water supply should make you question both its quality and safety. The presence of dangerous contaminants that can pose a significant health risk could very well be the reason why your water smells. However, odors that come from hydrogen sulfide, a form of sulfur, is said not to be dangerous to your health, but it does give your water a sickening, rotten egg smell and taste. It can also act as a laxative which can result in dehydration.

How Sulfur Contaminates Your Tap Water

But what does sulfur actually do to your once great tasting water? Says, Purdue University, besides giving your water a rotten egg or even sewage odor, hydrogen sulfide gas can also result in the corrosion of metal pipes which forms black water. This black water can then damage your clothes and even turn your silverware black. It will also dissolve the metal mechanical components on your clothing and dishwashing machines, costing you precious cash.    

Where Rotten Egg Water is Most Often Found 

Ground water is where most of the hydrogen sulfide will be found which is why your home is more likely to be afflicted with rotten-egg smelling water in the countryside as opposed to the more urban areas where surface water is more the norm. When wells are drilled in sandstone or near coal mines and even oil fields, hydrogen sulfide can be released, giving your water not only the smell of rotten eggs, but also an unpleasant greasy feeling.   

Sometimes, sewage pollution is the cause for bad odors in drinking water. This can occur when water wells have been dug too close to septic tanks, leach fields, or old sewer lines. When this occurs, you water can go from smelling like rotten eggs to raw sewage. Talk about sickening.  

Having your Rotten Egg Smelling Water Tested

To be honest, if your water already smells like rotten eggs or raw sewage it doesn’t require testing. That said, if it’s determined that sewage is the cause of the water contamination, it should be tested for disease carrying bacteria, especially coliform bacteria. This requires contacting water testing labs or other water treatment professionals who can run more tests and offer specific advice on treating the bad water.  

Getting Rid of that Rotten Egg Smelling Water

The good news is that more than one method for removing that rotten egg smell from your water exists. But it all depends on how much Sulphur gas has made it into your water supply, how much magnesium and iron are in the water, and how much dangerous bacteria has crept its way in. Then you have to factor in costs of filtration systems, plus maintenance, and the monthly costs of chemical disinfectants.

Here are some popular sulfur gas removal methods:

  • Chlorine Bleach Chlorinator: chlorine does a job on sulfur by chemically oxidizing the gas and thereby eliminating the rotten egg odor. The chlorine will also get rid of the iron while eliminating the bad bacteria. A chemical feed device called a chlorinator will automatically bleach your water system while a settling tank of up to 1,000 gallons will then filter the water.     
  • Iron Removal Filtration System: said to be a very specialized filtration system, it is capable of removing moderate amounts of iron and foul-smelling sulfur gas. The filter oxidizes the sulfur which can then be eliminated from the water supply. It will need to be changed regularly since the sulfur and iron waste will eventually clog it up. It’s probably a good idea not to attempt installing this kind of complicated system on your own. It’s better to rely on the professionals.   
  • Aeration: fresh air is introduced to the water system via corrosion-resistant ductwork and a vent screen which is attached to a motor and a water storage tank. The air oxidizes the sulfur and the iron, removing the rotten egg odor. Think of it as air conditioning for your water. The system is installed under its own small shed to prevent any further contamination of the water. This system too should be installed by a water treatment professional and maintained by one on a regular basis.  

Of course, you can always attempt digging yourself a new well somewhere farther away from any sewage lines and/or septic tanks. But that can also be a costly proposition and there’s no guarantee you end up with pure water. One thing is for sure, no one likes drinking or washing in water that smells like rotten eggs. Before you decide on which treatment you would like to go with to get your H2O back in shape, you should consult with a licensed water treatment professional.