There are few things worse than turning on the tap and getting a whiff of rotten egg smell. It’s clear there’s a problem, but identifying the source of the problem can be difficult. The problem is caused by hydrogen sulfide or sulfate – sulfur compounds – in your water system. While it won’t harm you, it certainly isn’t appetizing. In this article, we’ll go over causes and solutions to the problem of a rotten egg smell in your water.

What Causes Hydrogen Sulfide and Sulfates?

Though the ground as we see it appears still and constant, many things are happening under our feet. Organic material is pushed down from above. As the organic material decays, it can react with minerals containing sulfur in the soil and rock. This creates hydrogen sulfide in the groundwater. Sulfate is a mineral that is picked up by water as it flows through the ground. There are bacteria and microbes that consume sulfate and other natural materials into hydrogen sulfide gasses. If your water heater has a magnesium rod inside to prevent corrosion, your water heater could become a source of hydrogen sulfide.

How Do I Know Which is Present?

While hydrogen sulfide gas is easily detected at low levels, testing for it can be tricky. Your treatment options depend on how much hydrogen sulfide is in the water, so accurate testing is crucial. Many states offer hydrogen sulfide testing for a small fee, but because the gas is released into the air when the faucet is on, testing can be challenging. For this reason, professional consultation is recommended.

Testing for sulfate is a simpler matter but must still be undertaken with care to prevent contamination of the results. Professionals will also test to determine the source of the sulfur in your water. Whether it comes from both the hot and cold taps or only from water in the water heater can help narrow down the source, as can determining if the smell and taste subside after running the tap for a while.

What Should I Do About It?

It all depends on where the hydrogen sulfide is coming from and how much is present. If the source is your home well system, flushing it out with a strong chlorine treatment is usually enough to address the problem. However, if this is not the main source of the odor, the solution won’t last. If your water softener or water heater are causing odors, replacing the magnesium rod or giving a chloride treatment to those specific parts of your water system will also help. However, again, if this is not the root cause but a symptom of a greater issue in the water table, this solution won’t last.

If the problem is indeed in the groundwater, there are numerous options. You can resolve some smaller issues by installing an active carbon filter which will prevent the hydrogen sulfide from reaching your taps. An oxidizing filter will convert the chemicals into sulfur, which itself is filtered out easily. A water softener can help counteract sulfates. A more involved filtration system can also counteract higher amounts of sulfides in the groundwater.

Whatever the case, if you detect a sulfurous, rotten egg taste or smell from your water, it’s time to begin contacting professionals. We’re here to serve you and ensure your water system is the best it can be.