Hydrogen Sulphur Smell from one fixture

About a year ago I replaced the sink/vanity in the downstairs bathroom or our raised ranch. We have a water softener.
We have been living with the "rotten-egg" smell from the water coming out of that bathroom sink for some time now. IN retrospect, I am beginning to believe it may have started right after that new vanity was put in. We do not have the smell from the water anywhere else in the house. I don't think we even have it on the outside garden hose which does not run through the softener?
What has happened? Is the smell being caused by some kind of reaction between the sulphur content in the water and the pipe material of the replacement vanity? Does this make any sense?
Confused with a clothespin on my nose when washing my hands downstairs...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Is that sink the first device in the line coming from the softner? There shouldn't be any reaction between the softener and material used in pipe that I know of. Have you tried cleaning that line and looking into the pipe in question see if theres yellow discoloration etc. Terry

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Sounds more like a venting problem to me.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload


That's what it sounds like to me. There isn't any water staying in the trap, and the OP smells the sewer. Plugged/misconfigured/misplaced vent after replacing the vanity mebe causing the trap to siphon whenever the sink drains.
If gently pouring a cup of water into the sink drain (to refill the trap) makes the smell slowly dissipate, it's the probable cause.
A slug of bleach wouldn't hurt.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I understand that there needs to be water in the trap to keep the septic gasses out. I could easily be wrong- but I don't think that is the problem. There is no smell until you turn the tap on. Plus it isn't a sewer gas smell but more of the rotten egg type variety.
However, let me ask this- when you say: "Plugged/misconfigured/misplaced vent" what do you mean by the vent?
Thanks for helping...

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If you're sure it's coming from the taps, it means that you have some sulfur/H2S generating bacteria in the plumbing. Or in your well.
One of many sites that will help you do a basic disinfection:
http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/docs/disinfectwell.htm
Not mentioned in that site is that you should turn off the water heater. Second, run only one faucet at a time to check for bleach "arrival". Pay _special_ attention that you run enough water on the hot faucets so that the water heater gets full of bleach.
If the smell repeats you should probably get in a professional.
Water heaters run under 140F will sometimes pick up a bacterial infection and "breed it". However, the maximum temp in some jurisdictions is 120F.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
There needs to be a vent to open air (the roof) to allow the drain to function properly. If there is no vent, or it is compromised, as water drains from other fixtures they may "vent" through the trap of your lavatory and empty or partially empty it. This could give rise to a sewer odor.
Is this lavatory used often? If not it may be that the H2S producing organisms have time to "perfect their craft" between uses whereas in other more frequently used fixtures they are used often enough to flush the supply pipes often.
Do you have city or well water?
The organisms that frequently produce H2S are not even bacteria. And, even if they are bacteria, since they are not pathogenic testing for bacteria of the sort normally done on water (e. coli, etc) won't detect its presence. A frequently misunderstood aspect of water testing is that if the bacteria test says "no bacteria" it doesn't mean no bacteria. It just means no bacteria of the specific bacteria looked for. There may, and probably are, many, many nonpathogenic bacteria and other life forms present.
RB
Sox04 wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

We have a roof vent. I don;t know if it is compromised somehow- but I don't think so.

It is used on a daily basis.

Well water.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I played with the sink a little more last night and here is some new information.
ON approaching the sink, I put my face all the way in and sniffed around the drain. No smell whatsoever. I then dumped a large pail of water down the drain. Still no hydrogen sulphur smell. Then I tuned on ONLY the hot water tap. Much to my surprise- NO SMELL. The water started cold, got warm and then hot. ALl the while there was no smell. So, with the hot water still running, I turned on the cold water tap. Within seconds- a wave of hydrogen sulphur curled my nose hair. Leaving the both taps running for about 30 more seconds and the smell dissipated and then was gone altogether.
So the problem in a nutshell: The hydrogen sulphur smell is only present in this one bathroom sink which is on the lower level of a raised ranch.
We have very irony well water and use a Culligan Water Softener.
The smell didn't always exist at this sink and "seems" to have only started after I replaced the vanity and faucets about a year ago.
IT is only on the cold water side and dissipates after about 320 seconds to a minute.
If I fill a container of water and then smell the water- it is fine- no smell.
What the hey?
On 11 May 2004 19:19:35 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@nortelnetworks.com (Chris Lewis) wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Funny that I should read about something that somewhat pertains to my situation. About two years ago, I put in a new tank (with the bladder inside that is charged with about 16 lbs. of air, I believe) and a new pump. Previously I had a galvanized tank that I had to charge with air to maintain pressure. I never had the "rotten-egg" smell up till that time. Shortly after, I detected the "rotten-egg" smell just on the cold water side of my faucets. Nothing at all on the hot water side. I put a gallon of bleach into my well figuring that I would disinfect the whole system. Well, it worked for about two weeks but then the "rotten-egg" smell would return. Again, just in the cold water side and not the hot side. This smell returns about every 2 to 2 1/2 weeks without fail. About a 3 oz. shot of bleach into the pump solves the problem for ,again, 2 to 2 1/2 weeks. And so it goes, every two weeks or so without fail. Its annoying and frustrating to say the least. I would appreciate if anyone would comment on my situation and I certainly would be eternally grateful to the person who solves my problem. I can appreciate Sox04's dilemma.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Where are you located? Is the soil or rock that your well is in iron rich?
RB
AJW wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yes, I am in a iron rich stata. My softener gets rid of the iron for the most part. The softener hails back to before I obtained the new pump and tank. And I also run the bleach water through the softener every 2 to 2 1/2 weeks to purge the "rotten -egg" odor. As I said previously, all my troubles started after installing the new pump and tank. Could the bladder in the new tank be contributing to the problem?

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
My guess is that you have a well that is populated with archaea. Archaea is a life form that is more primitive than bacteria but far more abundant. Unlike bacteria and mammals they do not derive energy from a carbon-oxygen system, rather they are capable of deriving their energy needs from iron and sulfur. You will find archaea most often in iron rich areas. They are frequently referred to (incorrectly) as iron reducing bacteria but they are not bacteria at all.
An interesting and very readable book on archaea is "The Surprising Archaea" by Prof. John Howland of Bowdoin College.
(Amazon.com product link shortened) http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/EarthSciences/Oceanography/~~/cGY9MzAmcHI9MTAmc3M9YXV0aG9yJnNmPWFsbCZ2aWV3PXVzYSZzZD1hc2MmY2k9MDE5NTExMTgzNA = Prof. Carl R. Woese of the University of Illinois is credited with discovering archaea in about 1977 but the scientific community didn't accept this until more recently.
http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/00/1113woese.html
Some of the things you can try are to thoroughly disinfect your plumbing using bleach but this is a temporary fix as you already know. The archaea will get to your hot water heater where they will thrive. They are at home in an environment that mimics the hotter (core) portions of the deeper earth.
I installed a high dose ultraviolet sterilizer in my water system, disinfected the system with bleach, and replaced the anode rods in all of my water heaters with aluminum anode rods.
http://www.plumbingsupply.com/anoderods.html
This has eliminated the H2S content in my water. I did identify the culprit as archaea several years ago by sampling my well water and then obtaining samples of archaea that were visible using an SEM.
RB
AJW wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Did your reading indicate what temperatures archaea likely to be found in wells can survive? The archaea found in typical wells would be living in fairly ordinary (and _very_ consistent) temperatures. Like, 40-50F 'round here. [Most wells are in strata that have will be at _lower_ temperatures than the surface. You have to go pretty deep 'round here to worry about temps remotely close to most water heaters - usually thousands of feet.]
We're not talking about the sulphurobacters found on deep sea volcanic vents after all.
Jurisdictions have placed limits on water heater temperatures due to scalding risk. California, and some other jurisdictions/organizations mandate max temps of 120F. However, many relatively common bacteria will survive and flourish above that. Ie: you have to run your water heater at 140F to kill the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires disease. [internal temps of 140F is the theoretical "magic temperature" for cooking meat BTW. Anything beyond that is personal taste ;-)]
Health Canada (and the US CDC) recommend settings of 140F (and no higher).
One reason being, specifically, cases of Legionnaires disease from household water is apparently rather common - 6000 cases/year of Legionella (a variety of pneumonia) in the US by CDC figures.
We had an "infestation" in our hot water tank after having to replace the foot valve - hot water was visibly brownish and quite smelly. Given the age of the tank etc., we resolved it by replacing the tank and setting it to 140F. The previous one was around 120F. No problems whatsoever since.
That in turn puts you into risk of scalding. So, if you're concerned about that, a mixing valve would allow you to run the tank hotter, but reduce the output temperature to 120F (or even a bit lower).
I believe some states' (perhaps federal) regulations governing "institutions" (eg: hospitals, senior's homes etc) now require HWT at >0F with mixer valves to bring the max temp at fixtures to <0F.
Before doing anything major, it might be worth an experiment. Set the water heater to 140F for a few days, and be sure to use enough hot water to flush the tank several times over. Be careful using it - it's hotter than you're used to...
Does the smell go away? If so, you may want to consider leaving it at that temperature and use mixing valves if you have people in the home at risk of scalding (children, the elderly, or anyone with compromised skin sensation).
While a UV sterilizer will _help_ this sort of problem, if you run the HWT at 120F or below, eventually it'll reinfect again - you only need a few of these things getting thru to reinfect the HWT.
You'd want to put the sterilizer on the output of the tank, but that's apparently not a recommended practise, and I'm not sure I like the idea of letting the tank being a breeding ground no matter how good the filter was - they occasionally stop functioning - and you'd be bathing yourself in lots of dead bugs... And you'd need two sterilizers...
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Chris Lewis wrote:

A candidate would be sulfolobus acidocaldarius which can be found in water at near surface temperatures of 40 to 50 F, however it becomes quite active at temperatures near 200F. The the higher temperatures sulfur is oxidized and H2S is produced.
120 F or even 140 F isn't adequate to eradicate most archaea.
RB

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It might be worth checking the sacrificial anode in the hot water heater. Bacteria will react with a magnesium anode and produce hydrogen sulfide. Best to replace it with an aluminum anode. Since a bathroom is smaller, the smell can be more concentrated in that room so it may be noticed there first.
Bob

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 13 May 2004 04:15:44 GMT, "rck"

Thanks for the suggestion but we have domestic hot water.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
?? Your domestic hot water heater has a sacrificial anode.
RB
Sox04 wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
OH, OK- I'll check into that as well, Thanks

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.