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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article discusses how to identify, diagnose, and cure common odors that may be present in drinking water. We also discuss which of these odors may warn of unsanitary conditions.
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Scott Bradley, Aquacheck Water Testing Laboratory
Although water as a pure compound, H2O, is colorless and odorless, contact with the earth's minerals and our distribution pipes may impart some flavor and odor characteristics.
The Threshold Odor Test Method
A subjective analysis called the Threshold Odor Test, number 2150b. in Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 19th ed., can give us an idea of the strength of the odor as compared to controls of varying degree of odor concentration. But how do you interpret what the underlying problem is when your water has a peculiar odor?
Sulphur Odors in Water
Some odors are a little more insidious and require a bit of background knowledge to deal with them effectively. If your source water runs through an area where naturally occurring sulfur is present, some sulfur may dissolve into the water. We provide a diagnostic procedure to track down the source of sulphur smells in water just below.
Some of this dissolved sulfur turns to the gas, hydrogen sulfide, and this can give the water a rotten egg type smelly odor.
Sulphur odors can also be caused by a failing hot water heater component, or by certain bacteria in the building plumbing system, conditions we also discuss below.
Sulphur smells in water can also occur in rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and can be caused by anoxia and algae which in turn may be caused by high nitrogen from agricultural runoff - a condition we discuss at WELL WATER CONTAMINANT SOURCES.
Causes of other odors and smells in buildings (not just in building water) are discussed in a series of odor diagnosis articles which are listed at the end of This article .
Since sulphur or "rotten egg" odors in drinking water are a very common complaint we'll look at this case next, continuing this article at Diagnosing and Correcting Sulphur Odors. We provide a detailed list of sewer and sulphur gas odor sources at Sources of Sulphur Odors in Buildings.
Question: My client complains of a "certain smell" in her water but she can't identify it
I've got a client whose weekend home I inspected in 2005. They now have two young children and she's complaining about a "certain" smell in her water. She can't identify the smell.
Rotten eggs? No. Oily? No. Chemical? No.
But she smells it on herself and on her children after a bath or shower and says her skin fees dry after a shower.
Another twist. They've got two wells. They switch from one to the other when one gets dry. This home is in Ancramdale, NY 12503, Columbia County. Pretty rural. Lots of farming and sheep farming, I think.
The client wants me to test both wells. But I'm not confident that any generic water tests will do the job in this case. I've looked at both of your articles: WATER POLLUTANT SOURCES and Other Common Water Smells or Odors
I've looked at these two pages and I've got Smith Lab's price sheet in front of me and I think I'm in over my head. I mean, this could cost them over $1,000 in lab fees alone for the two wells.
Any suggestions? - Arlene Puentes, ASHI
Reply: Starting Point for Chasing Down Unidentified Odors in the Water Supply
Who smells the odors?
Watch out: methane odors in a building water supply can be explosive (METHANE GAS SOURCES)
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Questions and answers about tracking down unidentified odors or smells in household water supply.
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