Water Quality: Sulfur removal

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by DeeJay, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. DeeJay

    DeeJay New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Glen Williams Ontario
    This spring, after a winter of much lower than normal cottage use, the hot water had a first-time hydrogen sulfide smell, noticeable, but not overpowering.

    Lots of advice given by fellow cottagers, including getting a water softener. The simplest quick fix (that actually worked) was to drain the hot water tank, empty the two sediment filters, replace the filters, dump a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide in each, then fill the hot water tank again.

    It worked, and the smell went away. But I anticipate a return since we are using the cottage less than a few years ago, and I don't drain the hot water tank.

    Looking further into the problem, the water treatment guy said that the best solution was to install an inline charcoal filter, since the hardness wasn't severe and taste/smell improvement was the goal.

    A neighbour along the lake is reported to have installed a hydrogen peroxide injector (I've never heard of such a device).
    Any reactions or suggestions or opinions on this sulfur problem?
  2. justwater

    justwater Well Drilling/Service

    Messages:
    327
    Location:
    FL/GA
    we have plenty of sulfur in this area. i've used and installed several different systems. most common here is simple aeration. in the last couple years my favorite systems are the ones that oxidize the sulfur under pressure, i really like the odor oxidizers from www.aquatechnics.biz as i've sold several and had one on my house for over a year now and had 0 problems.. and if you call cracking a drain valve once a year to run off the sulfur collected at the bottom until it clears maintenance, then i guess it has a tad. however, this being a vacation house, i might stay away from any system that stores water in a tank. i usually wouldnt recommend this type of unit for every day home use, but i've been made to install one or 2 by customers and they seem to work pretty good. http://www.water-right.com/residential/filtration/im_filter/impression_filter.html the ims filter might be your best bet for a vacation house. little to no maintaince, no storage tanks, uses air only to remove sulfur.

    there are a few peroxide systems around here and they do work well, but i'm not a fan of upkeep and maintenance, and those require you to keep buying peroxide. i cant justify buying a product to remove sulfur when air is free and seems to be the best solution for it. just my .02

    btw, softeners arent really meant to treat sulfur.. and you might find your water is ok for vacation usage by using some type of in-line filter like you mentioned. i cant help you there, i stay away from those types of filters and am clueless when it comes to them.. other than knowing you better have a few extra cartridges laying around as they clog up pretty regularly and always restrict volume and pressure.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010
  3. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Stagnant water in the heater allowed bacteria to multiply and create enough H2S gas for you to smell. Kill the bacteria and you shouldn't have the problem until the next time you don't use enough hot water to prevent the odor from building up.

    A hot water only H2S gas odor is caused by a group of nonharmful bacteria, not natural occurring H2S gas in the water from the well.

    The bacteria is SRB (sulfate reducing bacteria) and they react with certain types of anode rods used in the water heaters to create H2S gas odor or a very similar odor.

    You can simply raise the temp of the heater to 140f for an hour or 2 to kill the bacteria or remove/replace the rod with a different type, which is a real pain to do.

    Water softeners do no remove gas (or bacteria), they remove ferrous iron, manganese and hardness (calcium and magnesium).
  4. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Flush out water heaters that have sat for some time without use, thats all it takes.
  5. DeeJay

    DeeJay New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Glen Williams Ontario
    While we were working on the reno today, the neighbour who had installed the peroxide injector dropped by, and we spoke about the contributions/suggestions here. He said his injector system involves another small tank into which the hydrogen peroxide gets injected at some predetermined regularity, and it is then added to the main tank/system.
    While he didn't indicate how much the injection system cost (I had asked if it was a couple hundred +/-). He replied that he had spent over $7000 so far on his water system- don't know if that includes a new well or not.
    I wonder if his hydrogen sulfide/sulfur problem is something more than the bacteria referred to above. But it didn't sound like he was real happy with whatever problems he's encountering with his water.
    Two other friends around the lake have also spent a lot of money getting decent water. They both had deep wells drilled near the shore and ran into very caustic water high in iron and manganese etc., requiring considerable treatment- softener, reverse osmosis, charcoal, sediment filters, and more.
    I can't complain about a bit of sulfur smell from my hot water, one summer in 23 years. And as Ballvalve said above, flushing out the hot water tank (though I did add hydrogen peroxide) has completely removed the smell....... at least til NEXT spring.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Flushing the heater didn't do much to get rid of the cause of the odor or the odor but the hydrogen peroxide did because it is a disinfectant and strong oxidizer like chlorine or ozone.
  7. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    All water heaters make gas when they sit long enough due to the anode. Next time drain it, or flush it without peroxide after a long shut down, and I'll bet you have the same success.

    Getting caught up in the voodoo of water treatment can thin out your wallet quick and cause endless service calls.

    Drink bottled water and soon you wont notice the smell anymore. You can also order brown porcelin fixtures, this is a cheaper fix than 7000$ of equipment prone to failure and misrepresnetation.

    Got a neighbor here that dreams of torturing and killing his ex-water quality fix it not guy.
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Please explain how a water heater, or an anode rod produces gas. Really, that is impossible.
  9. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Conversely, where the water conductivity is high, an excessive amount of current is produced with inefficient operation. This will sacrifice the anode sooner than predicted and require more frequent replacement. In addition, some of these waters have excessive sulfate content along with various strains of sulfate reducing bacteria *. These bacteria, harmless to health, will grow in the presence of the highly active magnesium anode rod and using the hydrogen ion from the anode-cathode reaction, will produce hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas smells like rotten eggs.

    While engaging in a debate with you is generally a regrettable and futile event, since you asked for a specific bit of education, I will provide it.

    Above is one of thousands of quotes detailing how magnesium anodes produce hydrogen sulfide gas in otherwise innocuous water, especially over time of non use.

    here is a service bulletin from bradford white. Many explosions have occured from this gas. Seems to me a "water quality expert" should be aware of this.

    Water heater tanks are typically constructed of steel with a porcelain enamel (glass) lining. Due to production and assembly methods it is not always possible to obtain complete coverage of the steel tank. Therefore, it’s necessary to provide a different metal (anode) to inhibit corrosion of the tank (cathode). The anode supplies electrons to the cathode and releases positive hydrogen ions and positive metal ions to the water. Release of the positive ions make the anode appear to dissolve which is a planned and expected situation. Consequently, the anode is frequently referred to as a “sacrificial rod.” Electrons travel to the cathode and combine with the hydrogen positive ions to eventually form H2 gas. No metal is lost at the cathode as it is protected by the anode. Due to generation of hydrogen ions at the anode, it is possible for hydrogen gas to form which is explosive and warnings are placed on every unit, including the installation instructions, to alert homeowners about the danger of flames near the water outlet.

    If you still have doubts, let your water heater sit for one year, bacteria or not, and put your head in the sink with a candle near the outlet. Have your next of kin send me a letter of thanks for the warning.

    I hope I have adequately addressed your "impossibility"
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2010
  10. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You just proved my point.

    Fact... SRB doesn't "grow" because of the type of rod used.

    They "grow" based on the amount of sulfates in the water. Sulfates is their food source. Without sulfates in the water, there will not be enough viable SRB to use a hydrogen ion from the anode rod to create H2S gas.

    Recall that H2S is hydrogen sulFIDE, not sulFATE. So how do we get SULFIDE out of SULFATE without the bacteria to convert it?

    Also remember that H2S is a gas that is dissolved into the water. So how do we get sulFIDE in the tank?

    Not too many years ago the water heater industry was not mentioning SRB, sulfates, TDS/conductivity or anything but the type of rod.

    Without the quality of water being capable of creating the proper environment, like high TDS (conductivity), sulfates and THEN Sulfate Reducing Bacteria, a water heater tank and its anode rod does not create H2S (or other odors).

    As I said, SRB must be present to get H2S from certain types of anode rods.

    Meaning that your comment is not true;
    Originally Posted by ballvalve [​IMG] All water heaters make gas when they sit long enough due to the anode.

    LOL that's because you can't comprehend what they say!!

    Go get a new magnesium rod and smell it, it will not smell of rotten eggs. Smell air out of a new never used water heater and smell it, it won't smell of H2S.

    H2S odor in a water heater only happens IF sulfates are in the water along with SRB to create the H2S rotten egg odor. Remove the rod or replace with a different type that prevents the bacteria from getting a hydrogen ion off it and there is no H2S.

    No H2S odor UNLESS there is naturally occurring H2S gas in the raw water going into the water heater. You can not get rid of that H2S odor without filtering out the H2S prior to the water heater.

    Raising the temp of a water heater to 140f for an hour kills one of the causes of the odor because it kills the bacteria responsible for creating the odor. Filter out the sulfates and no SRB so no odor. Reduce the TDS content of the water and no H2S.

    I hope that's clear enough for you. Thanks for demonstrating why this forum devolves into arguments.

    See my Gary comments in red in the quote.

    Get in touch with the web site you got that from and go back to the guy/gal that wrote it and ask them to prove their statement by asking; where does the S part of H2S come from?

    Nope, see above, it is the water quality in the water heater, not the rod or water heater tank as you claimed.
  11. kbear

    kbear New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    NJ
    Well guys, semantics aside, I'm experiencing that odor for the first time in 37 years in my house. It did start with a recently replaced water heater coinciding with clogged plumbing (sediment) that has me showering at the Y and not using my hot water much. Anyway, thanks for the info. I'll give the drain tactic a try but I'm afraid I will have to replace a lot of my piping to get back to home showers. ;)
  12. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
  13. kbear

    kbear New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    NJ
    Thanks for the link. Lots of good reading there. At least I have options that may not break the bank.
  14. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You could raise the temp to 140f for an hour or 2 and the odor will go away because the temp kills all bacteria in the water heater (by pasteurization).

    If you remove the anode rod you void the heater warranty and may scrap some of the rod off with it falling in the tank and then you'll still have the odor.
  15. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    You remove the rod long enough to test the issue. His old heater likely had a rod long gone.

    Anyway, 26 years without odor, and then changing the heater pretty much makes a good point about getting the correct anode for your water conditions.

    If you ever removed an anode, the surface material is "consumed" and will fall to the bottom on its own shortly anyway.

    He should also remove the plastic trash drain valve and install a ball valve anyway, and flush it regularly.

    Most new water heaters have cheap and short aluminum anodes with swirl dip tubes. For those that use hot water in cooking, this is a serious health threat in agressive water.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2010
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