Removing Odors from Well water

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Hiya, I have a 12-14 year old well that runs around 600' deep. I'm getting odors (kind of rotten egg smell) particularly when using hot water. I've gotten this in the past and have poured a gallon of chlorinated bleach down the well on the advice of the well driller. This fixed the problem, for awhile.
So it's back and I think I can just do the same as I did before. Put the bleach in, run the water in the house until I get chlorine odors and then let it sit for several hours before purging.
My question is around water softeners. There's one installed but I've never used it. If I got that thing back up and running, would it make sense to just put chlorine directly into it? I believe it serves the entire house. Not sure if this is a proper way of disinfecting the water or not.
Anyway, I'm sure I've left out other vital information but any help is most appreciated. Thanks, cc
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I agree. I just need to find someone to test the water (are there consumer kits available?). When I called the well company the last time they recommended the bleach approach. They are a well established company and have probably drilled 90% of the wells in the area so they have a pretty good idea of what's down there. In any case however, I do think getting testing done would be good.
As well, the more I think about it, the water softener idea probably wouldn't buy me much. Sure it'll cleanse the house lines inside but won't do a darned thing to well itself which is the source of the problem. So I think I'll go the bleach route for now and look into getting some testing done. I also should hit the hot water heater a bit more as that's where the majority of the odors are coming from (bacteria tend to thrive in the HW enviro more so than the cold lines so I'm told). Cheers, cc
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Bill wrote:

.....
I'd suggest a water test to find out for sure what you got and maybe help isolate the cause...not smart imo to have a situation w/ drinking water and not know for sure what you're dealing with. (On well myself...)
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dadiOH wrote:

It's one of those "probably's" that it is simply a sulfide, but not necessarily. There are other things as well that can be problems that make it worth knowing imo if it hasn't been tested recently or is a new phenomenon.
I don't doubt the well folks have been around, the ones here are the same way...they've got the records from the wells here going back to the original windmill drilled in 1914, but they still tend to "aw shucks, it ain't nuttn'" questions of quality on occasion...they're drillers, after all, not health professionals. Not denigrating them, it's a point of view thing. For the most part they're experience holds--it's just the odd case that there's something else going on that's a potential problem. Again, just a good piece of information to know about what you have specifically if it hasn't been done recently.
Also, it's predicated greatly on the type of aquifer, recharge, ground contamination and general area. If it's rural and not recharged from surface and there's no extensive ag use or other possible contaminants such as septic tanks, etc., there's probably no real reason to worry much. OTOH, many areas now have all of the above and more. Here one major problem is there are so many oil/gas wells that penetrate through the aquifer that contamination from these pathways is quite possible and unfortunately, fairly frequent.
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Hmmm, never gave the water filter idea a thought. Any recommendations on products/info on the web?
I too would like ot avoid the chlorine route but after the shower I took this morning, I nearly gagged. It's gotten much stronger over the past few weeks. Talking with homeowner's in the area, they go the bleach route as well when it's needed. I do intend to look for a water tester (any recommendations?) and plan accordingly once I have results, but I gotta do something short term, hence the bleach route. Cheers, cc
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I vote with you on this. Chlorine would be my choice for my swimming pool but not my well.
I'd go with a couple of whole house water filters and a reverse osmosis system for my drinking and icemaker.
All this AFTER the testing indicates it is safe.
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Cubby wrote:

If you don't have a significant hard water problem then I suggest that you forget the water softener. It will probably just be a needless hassle. I don't think it would be a good idea to try to put bleach in one. I'm afraid it would do bad things to the innerds.
As far as the odor, if the way you did it works, go ahead and do it that way. If you are having a persistent problem you may want to put in a chlorinator. This gets to be rather expensive, you have to have a chlorine injector, a large (120 gallon or larger) settling tank, and a whole house filter. Then you have to keep checking the chlorine level to make sure you are getting the right amount in. I suppose you might be able to get an automatic unit by this time, but of course that would be even more expense. The chlorine is cheap, bleach or pool chlorine will work just fine.
Bill Gill
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Cubby wrote:

Actually, it isn't the well itself it is the aquifer...has hydrogen sulfide (a gas) dissolved in it. Very common, people have been drinking water containing it for millennia...
Personally, I'd rather have hydrogen sulfide than chlorine.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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Nobody's mentioned the anode rod in the hot water heater. That is often the source of hydrgen sulfide in the hot water. Sulfide reducing bacteria grow on the anode rod and create hydogen sulfide gas which then enters the water.
I just replaced my water heater, never had a problem with odor and I've lived in the house for 6 years. Within 3 weeks, you couldnt breath while taking a shower. Bleach in only the hot water tank fixed the problem, but had to be added about every 3 weeks.
I then removed the anode rod and the smell went away. Its probably shortening the life of the tank and voids its warrenty but the old one lasted for 14 years. The way the water smelled with the new tank, the previous owners had to have removed the old tank's anode rod too (I didnt check before I got rid of it). I mean it was that gastly.
Magnesium and aluminum anode rods are most prone to this. There are aluminum-zinc-tin rods on the market that are "low odor", do a google search for "KA90 anode rod", but it didnt work for me. It delayed the re-occurence of the odor for about 2 months, but it gradually returned.
If you go this route, note that some water heaters have 2 anode rods and you have to remove them both. Also, the expected life of the heater may be drastically shortened.
dickm
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I use the Insta-Pur IR-10 charcoal element for best results at my house. In our case, we filter the drinking water only for taste, not the entire house. I so use a sediment filter though, for the entire house to get rid of the rust.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/




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wrote:

getting
chlorinated
fixed
Its possible you have iron bacteria in your water, a fairly common problem. It produces a smell "kind of like rotten eggs" as you described your situation and is more noticable in hot water. If you have a brown or black colored sludge/slime build-up in your toilet tank (not the bowl), this is a good indication of iron bacteria. Bleach treatment of the well certainly can keep it under control althought it is nearly impossible to totally eradicate and plays havoc with most types of water treatment or softener systems. I have this problem and "shock chlorinate" my well once a year. Shocking a well is more involved than just pouring in a bottle of bleach.
See module 6 on shock chlorination in the following web page: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca /$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/wwg404?opendocument
Here is some good info on wells and bacteria: http://www.hhs.state.ne.us/puh/enh/feswater.htm
By the way, I also fully drain my hot water and pressure tanks when I do the bleach treatment.
The hot water smell if due to iron or sulfur bacteria can also be temporarily eliminated by turning up the hot water thermostat to 160 - 170 degrees for a couple of days. This kills the bacteria in the tank and in my case the smell is gone for a couple of months.
Good luck!
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Thanks! That's a great resource. Unfortunately, I really have no way of knowing how far down into the aquifer my well pipe goes so not sure how to figure the amount of chlorine. I really haven't noticed much in the way of black slime in the toilet tanks but we use the chlorine tablets there so I wouldn't expect any. In any case, this gives me a lot more information than I had before. Thanks!!! cc

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Not according to the website that was cited:
"Pump the recommended amount of water (see Table 1, Amount of Chlorine Required to Obtain a Chlorine Concentration of 1000 PPM) into clean storage. A clean galvanized stock tank or pickup truck box lined with a 4 mil thick plastic sheet is suitable. The recommended amount of water to use is twice the volume of water present in the well casing. To measure how much water is in the casing, subtract the non-pumping water level from the total depth of the well"
With this method, I need to know both, how much water is in the casing as well as the total depth of the well. I have no way of knowing either of those variables.
With the website you cited, I would still need to know how deep the overall well is and unfortunately, I don't know that either. I suppose I'll try the drillers and see if they keep records on the aquifer. Cheers, cc

http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/watersafe/watersafe_disinfection.html
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Thanks Chris. Interesting idea. Wouldn't the ping pong ball just fall back down the string as I retrieved it?

That's a rough figure. Most of the wells around here are going about that depth. How much water is below that is anyone's guess.
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The amount of chlorine depends on how much water there is in the well. Not by how far the pipe goes down it.
Some sulphur smells are from bacteria in your well/system, others are from the rock itself. The former can be treated with disinfection, the latter cannot (or at least, not for long).
Here's two step-by-step instruction sets on how to thoroughly chlorinate/disinfect a well:
http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/watersafe/watersafe_disinfection.html http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0006-e.pdf
[I've used the first set to kill a non-zero TC count. Worked fine, hasn't recurred. The latter set should be just as good - I think it uses more bleach than the first one does.]
Not well documented in either case is what to do with the water heater.
First, turn it off (if you drain the HWT, you MUST turn off the HWT, or you'll destroy the elements).
Second, drain it if you can.
Then, when you're trying to fill the lines with chlorine from the well, (ie: step 6 in the first set of instructions), treat the hot water faucets as just more faucets. Ie: turn them on, one at a time, until the HWT refills, and gives you a chlorine odor at the tap.
Then, when flushing, if you can drain the HWT tank again (without killing your septic bed), do so (it'll make purging faster). And give the hot water faucets extra time to purge. _Then_ turn the HWT back on.
[Ie: the HWT probably shouldn't be operating while there's chlorine in the system, and MUST NOT be operating when the tank is drained.]
I recommend the full 24 hours chlorine soak.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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The "non-pumping water level" appears to be the static water level, which you can measure with a small weight and ping pong ball on a string - lower it until it stops lowering, then measure the string ;-)

Your first posting said the well was 600' deep.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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Aha! I think I understand the ping pong ball and weight business. I was thinking I needed to measure the bottom of the well, not the static water in the casing! Makes sense. Ok, I'm off to the mountains for a few days so won't be doing much more on this until next week but I'll definitely chime back in and let you all know how it goes! Cheers, cc

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James \\"Cubby\\" Culbertson wrote:

....
I'm curious about the design of a deep well such as this that has open/simple access to the casing to drop a string down the hole...never seen such an animal. The casing seal on the top of the hole is somewhat of a pita to pull on all wells around here I've observed. Not impossible, obviously, but not what I would consider routine, either. Of course, if we had sulfides or other reasons to have to flush a hole regularly, that might lead to a differing choice/design.
BTW, there's no chance of getting surface contamination initiating the problem, is there? Is the a generic problem in your area and not just a new problem w/ your well specifically?
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Cubby A few thoughts: 1. Not sure why you are using chlorine tablets in the toilet tank but you might remove them and see if you get the brown sludge due to iron bacteria (may take 1 -3 months to have any build-up). Think it would be useful to determine the cause of the smell before finding a fix. BTW my understanding is that iron bacteria is not identified in the "normal" lab tests of water samples but check this out with your test service.
2. Chris is right-on about the HWT; draining it and making certain the tank is full with the chlorinated water. When finished, I would absolutely NOT drain the chlorinated water into my septic system. I also make certain the pressure tank gets drained and filled with chlorinated water.
3. You should be able to get well depth from the well driller records. You should measure the static level as this may be useful to know if you ever have water supply/pump issues. BTW my well is 200ft deep, 6" diam. and the static level is 40 ft down. Be cautious when checking for static level; the line/weight/float can easily get mixed up with the electrical cable or water line and be difficult to untangle. Go slow and have line well secured; you do not want to have the weight come free and lodge itself between the pump and the well wall.
4. Assuming you determined you had iron bacteria, if I were you I would go ahead and shock the well with as large amount of stored chlorinated water as I could manage even though it was not as much as "specified". I would examine the results I got and adjust as required in future. Not all wells are worst case. In my case, I dump 30 liters(8USgal) in the well and and 20 liters(5USgal) into 200gal stored in 4 50gal plastic barrels and do this every 2 years.
5. When buying bleach make sure its 5.25% chlorine and its "PURE BLEACH" not one of the new fangled color-safe, odorized, lemon fresh, etc. bleaches. I found Walmart had the best price. Cheers and let us know what you find!

which
tring -

fall
that
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Tie the weight to the string. Use some duct tape to attach the ping pong ball to the string at the same place. The weight gives the string some discernible "tug", and the ping pong ball causes the "tug" to go away when you hit the water because the ping pong ball floats. It'll all come back when you pull it out. Unless you use water soluable tape ;-)


If the well is 600' deep, and the ping pong ball tells you the static water level, then a simple subtraction will tell you how much water there is in the well. You're _not_ trying to sterilize the entire aquifer, just the body of water in the well hole itself.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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