Why does your well water smell like sulfur or eggs? Is it because of the nearby chicken farm? Or maybe it’s due to your septic system?
When your water starts to get that sulfur smell, you need to get it checked straight away.
Well water is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans.
Many people don’t realize that their well water contains naturally occurring minerals and traces of metals that are essential for human health.
Most of the time, these traces are completely harmless and can even be healthy to consume.
However, some of these substances can become toxic when they exceed certain levels, or harmful contaminants could make their way into your water supply.
If your well water smells bad, it’s time to take action.
It can be scary if your well water starts to smell like eggs, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some reasons why your well water might be smelling like eggs.
We’ll also take you through a few ways you can get rid of the odor and make sure your water is safe to drink.
Why Does My Well Water Smell Like Eggs?
The first thing you need to know is that it isn’t actually eggs that you can smell.
Instead, it’s an element called sulfur – or in the case of well water, the egg smell is caused by a gaseous compound known as hydrogen sulfide.
A build-up of hydrogen sulfide gas creates a smell similar to rotting eggs.
There are several reasons why there may be high levels of hydrogen sulfide in your water; here, we’ll go through some of the most common causes.
If your well water smells like sulfur, it could be because of high levels of bacteria. Iron bacteria and sulfur bacteria are both present in well water.
While they are non-toxic and usually won’t cause any health issues, high levels of these bacteria can cause your water to start smelling and tasting like eggs.
These bacteria feed off the natural traces of iron and sulfur in the water.
Normally, there isn’t enough of these minerals for the bacteria to produce a smell; however, if there are larger amounts (e.g. from the walls of the well, soil, or decaying plants) then they will be able to feed and multiply to much higher levels than normal.
This produces more hydrogen sulfide gas, which will make your water smell.
Another possible cause of the egg-like smell is that hydrogen sulfide is naturally present in your water supply.
This could be caused by the well water being higher in sulfites, or if the well itself was drilled into naturally-occurring pockets of the gas.
The amount of hydrogen sulfide found in your well water also varies depending on where you live.
For example, places with warm climates have less oxygen available for the bacteria to use, so the amount of hydrogen sulfide generated is lower.
Also, areas with lots of rain tend to have more stagnant water, which means there is more opportunity for bacteria to grow.
Your water heater might also be the culprit. You can check if this is the case by smelling the water as it comes through your hot and cold taps.
If you don’t get the smell from running the cold water but it’s there when you’re running hot water, then the rotten egg smell is probably from an issue with your water heater’s anode rod.
Many water heaters use magnesium anodes – these can react with sulfates in the water to produce hydrogen sulfide, causing the smell of eggs.
If your well water starts to smell like eggs, you should get it tested straight away. It’s essential to make sure your water is safe to drink.
While hydrogen sulfide typically doesn’t cause health issues it could be indicative of a bigger problem with your water supply.
Is The Rotten Egg Smell Dangerous?
In most cases, you don’t have to worry about the health effects of water that smells like eggs.
Hydrogen sulfide isn’t dangerous unless it’s in very high amounts, and traces of sulfur and iron are commonly found in food and water.
Slightly higher amounts of hydrogen sulfide in your water won’t be detrimental to your health; however, there are a few things you should be wary of before drinking water with a rotten egg odor.
While it is mostly harmless, hydrogen sulfide can have a slight laxative effect and can make you dehydrated.
Over long periods of consumption, high levels of the gas can also cause irritation to your throat and stomach.
On top of that, unless you know for sure what’s causing the smell then you might be risking drinking contaminated water.
Contamination from sewage or rotting vegetation can make you sick and can be dangerous, so you need to make sure your water gets tested as soon as you notice the smell.
With that said, as long as you know the smell isn’t caused by anything harmful in the water then you should be fine drinking it.
There won’t be enough hydrogen sulfide in the water to cause any health issues, and the only thing you need to worry about is the smell!
How To Get Rid Of The Rotten Egg Smell From Your Water
Just because it’s safe to drink water that smells and tastes like rotten eggs, it doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it.
Here are some ways that you can get rid of the rotten egg smell from your well water.
If The Smell Is Caused By Bacteria
One of the best ways to get rid of the egg smell caused by sulfur bacteria is to add chlorine to the water.
Chlorine kills off the bacteria, so all you need to do is add some to your well water once every couple of weeks.
The easiest way to do this is to buy a bottle of household bleach and pour it into the well.
Wait between 6-12 hours to properly shock the water, then flush the well out for a further 4-8 hours to clear all the bleach out.
Water filters also help, trapping the gas and removing the bacteria from the water.
Carbon filters and whole-house filtration systems are extremely effective at getting rid of the hydrogen sulfide in your well water, and also help to keep your water clean and tasting great in general.
If The Smell Is Caused By Your Water Heater
As we’ve already covered, the magnesium rod in your water heater might be converting the sulfates in the water into hydrogen sulfide.
If this is the case, you’ll need to change the anode rod to a different material.
The best types of anode rods to use to avoid the smell of eggs are aluminum and zinc rods, which don’t produce the gas and as such leave your water odor-free.
Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you should leave this to a qualified plumber.
Once the anode rod has been swapped out, you should also disinfect the water heater, and flush it through semi-regularly to prevent the build-up of hydrogen sulfide in your water heater in the future.
If The Smell Is Caused By Contamination
If your water test shows that there are contaminants in the water causing the smell of rotten eggs, then you’ll need to take immediate action to make sure no one gets sick by drinking it.
You could try boiling the water first, but if you’re dealing with a large amount of contamination then it may not work.
Instead, you’ll probably want to contact your local government agency to see what they recommend.
They may suggest filtering the water, adding chemicals to kill off the bacteria, or installing a carbon filter system.
Whatever you decide on, make sure you follow their instructions carefully.
Alternatively, they or your local water company may take on the issue themselves. In this case, wait until they let you know that the water is safe enough to drink again.
The smell and taste of eggs in your water is far from pleasant.
But now that you know some reasons why your water might smell and how you can fix the issue, you don’t have to worry about smelly well water anymore!
Making sure your water is safe to drink is important, and you should get your well water tested as soon as you notice an issue with bad smells coming from your water.
As long as you use the advice in this guide, you’ll be back to clean, odor-free, and great-tasting water in no time.
So don’t worry if your well water smells, because now you have everything you need to know about how to get it back to normal!