It’s always a cause for concern when your well water starts to emit an unpleasant odor, particularly one that smells like sewage. You depend on your well to provide your family with a safe, steady supply of drinking water, and you expect it to smell good!
There are several reasons why your well water might smell like sewage, ranging from bacterial contamination to mineral build-up, and they could require immediate attention. Understanding the possible causes and appropriate remedies can ensure your water supply is safe, clean, and odor-free.
The Most Common Reasons Why Your Well Water Has a Sewage Smell
When well water smells like sewage, it’s often due to a few common reasons. It’s essential to accurately diagnose the source of the problem so it can be properly addressed, ensuring the safety and quality of your water.
Bacteria That Produce Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Are Growing in Your Drain
When your well water smells like sewage, one often overlooked source is the drain itself. Over time, organic matter like food particles can accumulate in the drain, creating a prime breeding ground for bacteria. These bacteria, particularly a type called Serratia marcescens, feed on this organic matter and can form biofilm colonies. As the bacteria metabolize the organic matter, they release gases that smell like sewage or rotten eggs, stemming from decaying organic matter deposited in the well water. This odor is often mistaken as coming from the water itself when it’s actually the drain. Regular and thorough cleaning of the drains can help prevent this bacterial growth and the associated odors.
You Have Iron or Sulfur in Your Water Source Producing a Rotten Egg Smell
Iron or sulfur in your water source can also be responsible for the sewage smell. Certain types of naturally occurring bacteria thrive on these minerals. For instance, sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and iron bacteria consume sulfur and iron, respectively, as part of their metabolic processes. A by-product of their metabolism is hydrogen sulfide gas—a compound that smells like rotten eggs or sewage. When these bacteria are present in your well, they can produce enough hydrogen sulfide to give your water an unpleasant odor. Testing your water for these elements can help you determine if this is the root of your problem.
You Have Sulfur Bacteria in Your Hot Water Heater
Bacteria don’t only inhabit drains or water wells; they can also thrive inside your water heater. This scenario is especially true if the temperature setting on your water heater is too low. Lower temperatures allow certain bacteria, such as those that produce hydrogen sulfide, to flourish. In addition, if your water source contains sulfur, these bacteria can use the sulfur to produce even more hydrogen sulfide gas in the warm environment. Regular servicing and maintaining appropriate temperature settings in your water heater can help keep these bacteria at bay.
You Have Sewage in Your Water
The most serious cause of a sewage smell is the actual contamination of your well water with sewage. This situation can occur due to a faulty septic system, or when floodwaters carrying sewage infiltrate the well. The bacteria and other pathogens present in sewage produce gases that smell like sewage, and more critically, they pose a significant health risk. In such cases, it’s vital to stop using the contaminated water immediately and seek professional help. A comprehensive water test can confirm if there’s a septic leak or other contamination issues, followed by appropriate remedial measures such as a well chlorination or repair of the septic system.
How to Fix a Well’s Drinking Water that Smells Like Sewage
Identifying the cause of the foul smell is the first step to fixing it. Each of the following solutions corresponds to the potential issues identified above.
Clean Your Drains
A build-up of bacteria in your drains can lead to unpleasant odors. However, a thorough cleaning can effectively eliminate this issue. This process might involve using a homemade solution of vinegar and baking soda, which can effectively dissolve minor clogs and disinfect the drain.
For more stubborn biofilm colonies, you may need a specialized drain cleaner designed to break down organic matter and kill bacteria. It’s also advisable to regularly flush your drains with hot water to prevent the accumulation of food particles and other organic matter that bacteria feed on. Be aware that proper disposal of kitchen waste, especially oils and fats, can also go a long way in preventing bacterial build-up.
Get Your Hot Water Tank Serviced
If your water heater is a source of odor, it may be due to bacterial contamination. Water heaters can provide a perfect environment for bacteria to grow, especially if they’re set at lower temperatures. Regular servicing and cleaning of your water heater can help address this issue.
A professional can flush the tank, removing any mineral build-up that bacteria could feed on. In addition, they can adjust the heater’s temperature settings to a level that inhibits bacterial growth, typically above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, always ensure safety measures are in place to prevent scalding at these higher temperatures.
Test Your Water’s Natural Groundwater Chemistry
Testing your water is essential to verify the presence of high levels of iron, sulfur, or other potential odor-causing substances. Comprehensive water tests can measure various parameters including pH, hardness, and the presence of certain bacteria or minerals.
These tests are usually simple to carry out; they involve collecting a water sample in a sterile container and sending it to a lab for analysis. The results will provide detailed information about the water’s composition. If iron or sulfur levels are high, you might need to invest in a specific water treatment system to remove these minerals and prevent associated odors.
Shock Your Well With Chlorine To Address a Bad Water Smell
When well water is contaminated with sewage or harmful bacteria, a common and effective method of disinfection is well shocking. This process involves introducing a strong solution of chlorine bleach into the well and allowing it to circulate through the water system. The high chlorine concentration kills bacteria and other microorganisms, effectively sanitizing the well and water pipes.
It’s important to let the chlorinated water stand in the system for at least 12 to 24 hours to ensure thorough disinfection. After this period, the system should be thoroughly flushed to remove the chlorine before the water is used. It’s recommended that this process is carried out by professionals to ensure it’s done safely and effectively.
Invest in the Best Water Filter
One of the most effective ways to ensure your water remains clean, safe, and odor-free is by investing in a high-quality water filter. A good water filter can remove bacteria, minerals, and other contaminants that might be causing the sewage smell.
Remember, the key to selecting a water filter is to understand the specific needs of your water source. Therefore, regular water testing is crucial to identify which contaminants need to be removed. Also, consider whole house filters that are easy to maintain and have good reviews regarding their longevity and performance.
Count on DROP for the Best Water Filters
The smell of sewage in well water could indicate several issues, all of which require attention and action. Whether it’s bacteria in your drains or water heater, mineral build-up in your water source, or actual sewage contamination, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure your water is safe for use.
For reliable solutions, you can count on DROP. We offer a selection of high-quality water filters and smart water softeners designed to address various water quality issues. Our products provide a robust line of defense against contaminants, ensuring you always have access to clean, safe water. Take a look at our selection today!