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Is Sulfur in Well Water a Common Issue?

fresh water out of a well in a bucket
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Well water is water that is stored in the ground beneath the surface. It can be accessed by creating a structure that is semi-permanent and can receive and store this natural groundwater. By including a pump with the well you build, this groundwater can be pumped to the surface and directed into the home for use. But is there sulfur in well water?

While there might be an unlimited supply of groundwater available, and it’s free of charge, there may be some drawbacks. Since it occurs naturally, there are likely to be some chemicals that can be found in the water. A few of the more commonly occurring chemicals are sulfur, lead, chromium 6, arsenic, mercury, and radon, along with some unwanted bacteria. Sulfur in well water is very common, and it imparts a kind of rotten-egg smell to the water. We’ll talk more about the impact of sulfur in your well water and how to get rid of that smell.

With these potentially harmful elements in the water, it becomes necessary to have some kind of water filtration system attached to the well. With a filter in place, the water then becomes safe for drinking, bathing, and all other household needs. It has been estimated that 15% of American households are supplied with well water. That number can be considerably higher in certain sections of the country.

water in a test beaker to test for chemicals and contaminants

What is Sulfur and How Does it Get In Our Water?

Sulfur is a non-metallic element that appears yellowish. When burned, sulfur gives off an odor reminiscent of rotten eggs. It comprises approximately 4.5% of the earth’s core, and that makes it one of the most common elements found in nature. Sulfur was used thousands of years ago by cave dwellers to paint scenes on cave walls. It has a long history of human interaction and is the tenth most common element in the entire universe.

There are several ways that the sulfur in the well water can get into your water supply. Once that happens, you’ll probably be willing to do almost anything to get rid of the smell again. It can be pretty repugnant, and it’s virtually inescapable. If the rotten-egg smell only occurs when you use hot water, that probably means you have sulfate-reducing bacteria in your hot water tank. It could also be due to some kind of interaction between your water tank’s magnesium rod and the hot water itself.

If you detect the sulfur in well water smell when using either hot or cold water, the cause will be different. In this case, the problem is in the water supply itself, and that will be harder to get rid of. This is an indication that hydrogen sulfide gas is present in the groundwater feeding your well. To get rid of the smell, look to install some kind of water treatment system.

Sulfur in Well Water vs. City Water

Sulfur in well water is far more common than it would be in city water. City water supplies are generally filtered in several ways! That way virtually all the sulfur will be removed from the water before distribution to homes. You could still experience the sulfur smell in your home if you have an issue with your hot water tank. However, if your supply is from municipal sources, chances are that the sulfur and most other chemicals have been removed.

However, that is not the case with well water. When groundwater seeps through the earth, it tends to dissolve oxidized sulfide ores and other minerals containing sulfur. This can easily seep into your well water supply and become one component of your water. While sulfur itself is not necessarily dangerous to ingest, it can cause complications. For instance, sulfur can cause pipe corrosion and promote the development of scale.

If you were to ingest too much sulfur in your drinking water, it can cause diarrhea and dehydration. In addition, the naturally occurring bacteria in the soil use sulfur as a food source. So they will generally be present wherever sulfur is. Even if the sulfur itself is not particularly harmful to humans, that bacteria is not a healthy thing to have in your water. The bacteria produces a  slime that corrodes pipes and causes damage to your plumbing system.

an onit home water filtration system used to filter out contaminants in our water systems

How to Eliminate Sulfur Smell

There are several different approaches you might use to eliminate the smell of sulfur in well water. For the sake of your plumbing system and the general health of your family, you definitely should undertake some effort to remove the sulfur from your water supply. First of all, you should have your water supply tested, so you know exactly what it contains. In some cases, you can request such a test from your municipal water supply agency. You can also have the water tested by a private company like ONIT, which is a company that specializes in water treatment systems.

First Step

Your first step should be to isolate the problem so you can determine its source. It’s important to find out whether you experience the rotten egg smell only when hot water is being used. This will tell you that the problem is most likely limited to your water heater. That being the case, it could simply be a matter of swapping out the magnesium rod in the water heater. You could replace this magnesium rod with an aluminum one, and that will not cause the sulfur smell.

However, if you get the sulfur smell when either hot or cold water is being used, that probably indicates the problem is in your water supply itself. That will call for more drastic measures to eliminate the smell issue.

Second Step

The next step you should take is to have your water supply tested. This will be critical to making the right choice of a filtration system. You have to know which chemicals are in your water, so you know what kind of filtration system to install.

Third Step

Next, you’ll need to decide what kind of method you’ll use to eliminate the sulfur in well water smell. Here are some of the possible water filtration systems you might install:

  • Air charger carbon filtration. This can be used when you have the sulfur smell in both hot and cold water, and there is no iron or manganese present in your water
  • Water heater odor killer.  This can be used if you have the sulfur smell only when hot water is being used in the household
  • Chlorinator and iron filter. This is a good option when you have both the sulfur smell and there’s evidence of rust staining from your water supply
  • Chlorine and peroxide injection system. This is an option when you have a strong sulfur smell in both hot and cold water. The chlorine will shock the water supply, and then following up with the peroxide injection system will finish the job. A peroxide injection system will usually be equipped with a backwashing carbon filter. This eliminates all the unpleasant smells from your water supply.

If you’re uncertain about which of these methods will be most effective for your water supply, it may be best to consult with your local water supply experts. You can also contact ONIT for expert advice on what you should do.

two people leaning over a well to get fresh water

Contact the Experts at ONIT Home Today

Your family’s health and the health of your entire plumbing system are things you don’t want to take chances with. For that reason, you should respond quickly when you become aware of the presence of sulfur in well water at your home. If you have a trustworthy and reliable consultant in your area who can advise you on how to proceed, that will help.

However, many homeowners simply don’t know who to turn to when they discover this kind of problem. One course of action you can take that will always be the right thing to do is to contact the experts at ONIT. Our company has an entire team of specialists devoted to water filtration issues and ensuring that your household water supply is safe. We also have all the necessary technology to eliminate any nasty odors or harmful chemicals from your well water.

We have considerable experience and expertise in the areas of home security, solar energy, and home insurance. Having been in the business for many years, we have identified the kinds of products and services that are most often needed by homeowners. We have put that knowledge to work and established ourselves as a premier home systems company.

Contact us today, so we can visit your premises and take whatever steps are necessary to eliminate sulfur and other chemicals from your water supply. We have all the technology necessary to overcome even the most stubborn causes of sulfur smell in your water supply!

Contact us today by visiting us online or giving us a call right now at 1-833-433-0331.

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