Customers water smells and I have a analysis report, now what!?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Doherty Plumbing, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Hello everyone,

    I got a call from a client a while back telling me that his domestic water smelled like rotten eggs. He is on a well system and I was at that time not 100% sure what the problem was but I was pretty sure a carbon filter was the answer.

    So I did some research and even started a thread on here about the problem. After some reading and responses on here it became pretty obvious that this system was contaminated in the well with some kind of bacteria putting of S02 gas. I came to this conclusion because both his hot and cold would give off the smell not just the hot.

    The gentleman dug around for me and found a water analysis report he had done in April of 2007. He assured me the water hadn't changed much since then and the report should still be valid.

    But I have to admit water quality / well systems are not my strongest areas of expertise!

    The client also told me that he had an iron filter installed already and wondered if that had anything to do with it if it wasn't working properly. I was pretty sure that the iron filter wouldn't have anything to do with it.

    Anyway what I did was copy the water analysis report into an HTML table so I could share it with you folks and let you have a look at it! If you can tell me ANYTHING that will help this mans water problem would be very much appreciated!

    Thank you for your time!

    Here is the analysis report: CLICK HERE FOR THE REPORT!

    PS. I have highlighted the sulfate and iron contents for your convenience!
  2. Allen Meyers

    Allen Meyers Previous member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    When you run it out side does it smell? Does it smell all the time or after running it does it stop? By any chance is it at the kitchen sink, real bad in the AM??
  3. Allen Meyers

    Allen Meyers Previous member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    More information on the well would help. Is this a 5" PVC?
  4. sjsmithjr

    sjsmithjr Geologist

    Messages:
    295
    Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    A lot can change in two and half years. Besides, if your collecting water samples in an attempt to figure out the problem you need to analyze for hydrogen sulfide, sulfate, sulfur bacteria, and iron bacteria. You only have results for sulfate.

    I didn't go back to read the earlier thread, but I'm assuming that you know that if the odor is strong when the water in both the hot and cold faucets are first turned on and then goes away or gets better after the water has run for a while that the problem is probably sulfur bacteria in the well or distribution system. If the odor is strong when the water in both the hot and cold faucets are first turned on and pretty much stays the same then the problem is probably hydrogen sulfide gas in the groundwater. If it's only from the treated side of the distribution system then the problem is likely in the treatment system.

    Where is this well?
  5. Allen Meyers

    Allen Meyers Previous member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    We are running into this with PVC wells and the mystery remains. It is not the water. We can run it outside and it does not stink. Take the top off of wells, no smell. BTW, mine did it too! Then one day as odd as it started, it stopped. The few people that have tried filters, it appears to take longer for it to stop. If the water runs a minute, it is fine.

    Mine started just after the kitchen was remodeled. Took about three years to totally stop.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Carbon is a poor choice for the removal of H2S gas (hydrogen sulfide gas); Centaur carbon is said to be great but I have never used it alone. And no carbon should be used when there is any type of bacteria in the water. This type odor is quite common and does not mean teh wel lis contaminated. H2S gas exists in groundwater, it is created by harmless bacteria in the ground and groundwater.

    The bacteria, 2-3 groups, can also colonize water softeners and carbon filters and some types of iron filters. IOWs, when bacteria are present, a carbon filter of any kind can create more odor.

    Naturally occurring H2S gas is usually treated with an oxidizing disinfectant such as chlorine or hydrogen peroxide. That must be done with bacteria present. Then a filter removes the particulate mater and chlorine or just the particulate matter. Without bacteria, then an oxidizing mineral filter that is backwashed or regenerated is used. There are a number of different medias used. With a disinfectant, all H2S, iron and manganese is oxidized into particulate matter that then is easily filtered out of the water stream wit ha backwashed filter.

    So what type iron filter is there? is it backwashed only or regenerated? If regenerated, with what? How frequently? How many permanent residents live in the household?

    Smelling odor at an outside faucet is difficult to do and if the odor was in the hot and cold water in the house before you added the carbon filter, then it is (normally) in the water coming in from the well if you can smell it outside or not; and that is the only assumption that should be made.

    You do not have to have iron or sulfate present to have H2S gas/odor.

    You don't have to have H2S gas in the well water and may not IF there is certain bacteria in the water and a place for it to thrive in like a Birm iron filter or a softener. Usually it will be in the well water.

    If there is H2S gas in water going through a Birm iron filter, it will ruin the Birm, which will allow iron and manganese to get to the softener; which is not set up to deal with it and at some point the softener will not be capable of removing all the hardness, iron and manganese.
  7. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    So the long and short of it is I need to get a new water sample, have it tested and have them tell me what to install :D

    I tried to tell this guy that we needed a new water sample but he's basically cheaping out not wanting to pay to do it.

    Would I be best to have 3 water samples examined? Cold water, Hot water, and pre-iron filter water?

    Does anyone know the appx. cost of having a test like this done? Are we talking $20-$30 per sample range or much more expensive? He was thinking it was really expensive like $300 CAD....

    Thanks for all your replies!!! I am trying to get as much info as I can but I haven't had time to make it back there (to his motel). I am going this saturday.
  8. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    If he is too cheap to pay for the water test, what chance is there that he will pay for equipment to treat it? Anyhoooo, we have two local labs here. both will test for under a hundred dollars.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    IMO, if you are going to do water treatment, you should be carrying your own test kit and doing the tests on site; except for Coliform bacteria, and that you can do back at the shop, or at home, with your own incubator.

    I say that especially since you are doing commercial work, and in this case at a motel, that usually works on a 24/7 basis.

    IMO you have more liability and other exposure with commercial than a residential softener would have and you can get in trouble really quick. And ignorance is no legal excuse, so depending on someone else, counter help at the supply house possibly, is not a good position to be in.
  10. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Oh come on now. that kid Bob with the tatoos and the nails through his cheeks is pretty sharp when it comes to plumbing parts. ;)

    I like to go in and ask for a 3" cottage tee. Then sit back and watch the look on his face. :D
  11. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    I understand your point. However despite being a Journeyman plumbing I know next to nothing about water quality/treatment. This is because up here it's not really something plumbers learn about in school or deal with on the job. We have water quality guys that do this stuff!

    I think I'd much rather leave it up to a company who has tested 1000's of samples and can tell me exactly what I need to put in to solve the problem. Through doing this I might get enough experience to start and solve these little problems on my own but for now it's out of my comfort zone on what I'm willing to put my name on.

    I would probably charge the customer $90 to test the water anyway and I'm sure I couldn't do it as well as water testing company that charges around the same!

    The bottom line is that if the customer isn't willing to pay to have the water tested then he himself can go purchase the parts he thinks will solve the problem and I will install them. But I'm not buying the parts with any sort of guarantee that they're gonna work if I don't know exactly what it's the water. Like someone said above -- if he's too cheap to have the water tested what are the chances he wants to pay to $1200 to install some filters etc? I'll just throw my hands up and say that I'm not willing to deal with the problem anymore until we have a current water sample tested. I already have quite a few unbillable hours into this problem doing research etc. I'm not willing to waste any more of my time on it.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
  12. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    You have no doubt made up your mind to pass on this one and i think that's the right decision given the circumstances. However, water filters and treatment are an area that is worth getting involved in because in these economic times it adds another income stream. The question though becomes who do yo trust to test and advise. It's no different really than buying heating equipment from your supply house. You need to make sure that your salesman is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Until you feel comfortable with doing the testing yourself, have them do it and advise you what equipment is necessary for the job. This stuff ain't rocket science and everyone needs to start somewhere. Not all equipment is the same and some are better than others. but ultimately you are sort of locked into what your supply house sells. I'm lucky, my supplier carries Fleck and Clack and I feel comfortable with both. In the end though, most of this stuff does what it is supposed to do if sized and installed properly. Even the one's you get from the box stores.
  13. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Yeah I'm going to take this old analysis to the wholesaler right now and have them look at it and tell me what I need based on this report. Then I'll tell the customer based on this report this is what the wholesaler is recommending but I put NO guarantees on it to work without a new test report.

    I'll let you all know how it goes!

    And I would like to get more involved with water quality but it's something I'd need to wade into slowly rather then just jumping in feet 1st.
  14. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    Best of luck. Keep your eyes and options open ;)
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Trust me here, I am trying to help you. Being any level plumber is not important, you don't know water treatment and you are not expected to except by uninformed people like your motel owner etc. that thinks water and calls a plumber automatically. That's why there are water quality guys there; as there are everywhere, just like plumbers or doctors, teachers, police etc. etc..

    Assuming you mean a lab and not a water quality guy, they only test water. Rarely does a lab tell you what equipment to use to improve the water quality. AND, labs screw up and you have absolutely no way of knowing unless you test the water yourself. And if you test it yourself, why would you need a lab but, water quality guys test the water themselves, and from experience, you aren't going throw off liability by telling the court that you had someone else test the water and propose the equipment because you are the guy the motel called and paid. This time will be twice now

    That's admirable but you need a mentor, a teacher, that knows water treatment on their own because you won't learn on your own without studying water treatment.

    Most water quality guys charge a service call to show up to look things over like how hard will it be to install the equipment and to do the sample collection or water tests etc. but they don't charge for testing; unless they are going to take the sample to a lab.

    He is the type that will screw you any way he can because he is dictating what and how it is done, regardless of what you tell him. Maybe because he doesn't trust your abilities but, since he is hanging on to you instead of going to a water quality guy says something not so good for you if things go bad later.

    I've never had a no pay problem and he will probably pay you but if the problem isn't solved, he will probably sue you too. And IMO you will lose the suit, refund him what he paid you and lose your reputation and maybe the equipment.

    I always told my customer I expected payment when I was done installing and ready to leave. I did the invoice on site based on an agreed on installed price before I ordered the equipment and/or showed up to install anything. I also took lotsa notes of the phone conservations and what equipment choices were discussed and the prices. I kept them in the customers file folder forever. I threw them all away, from 1986, when I sold out and moved into the motor home the 1st of Oct 2006. I was sued twice, and the folder and all the originals of everything in it went to court with me. I lost one (10 months after the installation), gave a full refund and got my used equipment back and I won the other (18 months after installation). The win was against a court employee that hired his lawyer friend/coworker, the county Dist Attorney, that worked just down the hall from my customer's courthouse office. I represented myself in both cases.

    You are in over your head and you admit it. You are on the hook for any loss of business for a motel which is under government mandated quarterly water tests for 'potability' (at least in the US that's the way it is) and there is no expiration date on your liability. Do you like excitement, are ya into adventurous activity with your livelihood on the line? Does your insurance cover water treatment? I bet it doesn't; call your agent and find out (I used to be an insurance agent).

    My advice is do nothing in that motel except plumbing unless you are leaning on a trustworthy water quality guy. Leaning on the knowledge of the counter help guy at the supply house may not be sufficient for commercial. And as we see, you already installed a carbon filter that isn't the right equipment and possibly is way undersized for the constant SFR that's needed. And you did that because you used a like 2 yr old water analysis. If I were the judge, you'd be refunding all money charged so far. And unless you fought most judges, you may suffer the loss of the filter. And if you are allowed to remove the equipment, get it in writing and get the equipment before handing the guy the check.
  16. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    I actually have not installed ANYTHING. We are exploring options. He has a few issues with his water.

    1. It smells.
    2. His piping is WAY undersized (3/4" feeding 14 hotel rooms lol).
    3. He needs 2 water tanks installed.
    4. We are discussing a tankless wall mount unit to help keep up with demand.

    And there are a few other minor things we are looking at.

    I am simply doing my homework on the areas I am unfamiliar with. Like any good businessman I'm not necessarily gonna pass the job aside JUST because I'm a bit uncomfortable with it. I'll do whatever I can to learn about what's required so I can still have my hand in the cookie jar so to speak.

    The counter guys you have must be 100% incompetent because the wholesaler I deal with actually has some VERY knowledgeable staff. They take courses and seminars etc -- some of them are also retired plumbers. I would fully trust them to give me the info I need and the equipment called for!
  17. Allen Meyers

    Allen Meyers Previous member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    Will this have a higher standard of code because it is a public place in your state? I know in my state the water would be tested for BT each year.
  18. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Honestly I don't know what the regulations say about having the water tested. This place is actually located on Native land so there could be some other factors at play with regards to that (being that it may not fall under the same rules as places on crown land).
  19. Allen Meyers

    Allen Meyers Previous member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    That would make a difference where I live.:cool:
  20. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yes I was wrong and was thinking you installed the carbon filter but you haven't.

    Let us know what your wholesaler says.
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