Get Rid of That 'Rotten Egg Smell'

 That rotten egg smell you get every time you turn on the hot water? You can get rid of it.

Both Pullman and Moscow have neighborhoods that have a lot of bacteria in the water supplies. That doesn't mean that it is always a health hazard - often it just really annoying. We have iron and sulfur bacteria in our area, courtesy of the aquifers that we have. Neither type of bacteria is particularly harmful, at least not at the levels usually seen. 

Here are some valuable tips on how to avoid or treat sulfur bacteria infestations.

Sulfur-reducing bacteria live in oxygen-deficient environments. They break down sulfur compounds, producing hydrogen sulfide gas in the process. Hydrogen sulfide gas is what gives the water that rotten egg smell. It's also highly corrosive. The sulfur smell may only be noticeable when the water hasn't been run for several hours which is why is seems to happen in vacant houses more often than occupied listings.

Why is it only in the hot water?

Actually, it isn't - it's in the cold water, too. The water heater  provides a good environment for Sulfur-reducing bacteria because it contains a "sacrificial anode." This anode is a magnesium rod that helps protect the water heater by corroding instead of the tank lining. SRBs are nourished by electrons released from the anode as it corrodes.

Water heaters infested with Sulfur-reducing bacteria can be treated.

The bacteria dies at temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above, which is roughly equivalent to the high setting on most home water heaters that are in good working order. Setting the water heater on "high" will raise the water temperature to approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit and kill any SRBs in the tank.

(This should only be done if the water tank has a pressure relief valve, and everyone in the house should be warned to prevent scaldings.) After about eight hours, the tank can be drained and the temperature setting returned to normal.

Raising the water heater temperature will solve the odor problem, but it may be temporary depending on the condition of the house plumbing supplies.

Removing the sacrificial anode will eliminate the problem, but it can also shorten the water heater lifespan significantly and likely will void the warranty. Replacing the magnesium rod with one made of zinc won't totally eliminate SRBs, but it will greatly reduce their numbers. Consult with a plumber before attempting to modify your water heater.

I'm selling my house - Should I fix this?

If you have your home listed for sale, I can absolutely guarantee you that this will improve the way your home appears to prospective buyers. I've had more clients than I can count wrinkle their noses at the rotten egg smell coming from the kitchen or bathroom when I am testing the functional flows. It doesn't help you sell your house.

Clean air and water evoke powerful, positive feelings. I strongly recommend that you fix that rotten egg smell.

 

Copyright © 2013 Paul Duffau