New (to me) property with heavy sulfur odor. Getting started on fixing it.

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relevante

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Hello all. Several years ago I had a serious iron problem at my home. The professionally installed system was working horribly, and as I learned more in my own research, largely from these forums, in the process of fixing it, I found that it was horribly designed. Not nearly enough flow available for backwashing the filter they installed, etc. The system I installed fixed the problem almost perfectly and we've enjoyed very good water since then. So thanks to everyone for the great education and advice.

Fast forward and we just bought a new house. It has two wells as in addition to the main house, there is a rental property and a guest house and barn with water. The previous owner was set up with a leased system (3 systems actually, from the same company). Fortunately the water in the main house (which is on its own well) has been subjectively pretty good so far. However, the guest house and rental have awful sulfur smell. I'm fairly tolerant of a little bit of it, but this is heavy.

I called the current filter guy and he recommended draining the water heater, which I did and it perhaps helped a bit temporarily, but it's certainly not solving the problem. The tenant in the rental just informed me that he's been out a bunch of times over a number of years to try to address the situation but it never improves. The current setup in all 3 systems is a fairly small backwashing filter with potassium permanganate. I wanted to do my own systems at some point anyway just to get off of the lease arrangement since we plan to be here for the long haul, but it sounds like maybe that time is now.

First things first, I need to get the water tested to see exactly what I'm dealing with. The Watercheck and ETR tests and most others I've seen only test for Sulfate and not Sulfide. When I look back at my old KAR labs tests they showed a "total sulfur" reading. Is Sulfate going to be a good enough indication of severity to get me going or is there a better test I should be doing? I've seen some test strips and other diy kits for H2S, but also a lot of feedback that they don't really work, although I did just order some strips to try. I think generally I'm going to be able to assume the worst on sulfur, and the testing is more going to be for the info on iron, manganese, pH, hardness, etc, anyway, but of course I'd rather just do it right the first time, so any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks again.
 

Bannerman

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Flushing the WH and replacing the anode rod with a rod made from an alternate material would make sense if the sulfur odor affected the hot water only, but your description sounds as though the issue is with the water directly from the well.

Sulfur Odor is usually reduced/eliminated through oxidation so in obtaining a water sample to provide for testing, there will be sufficient exposure to air to initiate oxidation, thereby making a lab test result for sulfur inconclusive. Your best indicator will be your nose.

The value of a lab test report is to consider all water conditions so as to identify treatment considerations and also identify if additional treatment methods will be necessary. A treatment method to effectively remedy a sulfur issue for one well, but may be less effective for another well even as the main issue appears to be identical.
 

relevante

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I suggest that you sanitize your wells and all plumbing. https://terrylove.com/forums/index....izing-extra-attention-to-4-inch-casing.65845/ is my writeup. It is more rigorous than most.

This is a good time of year for that.

Regarding testing H2S, the nose is a good way. H2S is lost during even overnight shipping. There are ways that test on site.

OK, sounds like a plan. Would you do this before or after sampling the well, or does it really matter?

Is it worth buying a test and checking specifically for SRB prior to sanitizing, or is it pretty safe to assume they're there just based on the water quality issues?
 
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relevante

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Flushing the WH and replacing the anode rod with a rod made from an alternate material would make sense if the sulfur odor affected the hot water only, but your description sounds as though the issue is with the water directly from the well.

Sulfur Odor is usually reduced/eliminated through oxidation so in obtaining a water sample to provide for testing, there will be sufficient exposure to air to initiate oxidation, thereby making a lab test result for sulfur inconclusive. Your best indicator will be your nose.

The value of a lab test report is to consider all water conditions so as to identify treatment considerations and also identify if additional treatment methods will be necessary. A treatment method to effectively remedy a sulfur issue for one well, but may be less effective for another well even as the main issue appears to be identical.
OK, makes sense. The nose test is clearly positive, so I'll proceed to find out what else I'm dealing with, either before or following the sanitizing procedure as suggested by Reach4. Thanks.
 

Reach4

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SRB (sulfur reducing bacteria) reacts with sulfate and metal ions to produce H2S. You will want to knock out SRB in your plumbing including water heaters, well, and nearby aquifer strata. SRB is said to be slow growing, so I am looking for 1 or more years of help, rather than months.

When you are finishing the sanitizing, you don't want all of the treated water to go to your septic system. Identify a place to dump that, such as into a ditch that you don't care much about the plants at the bottom of the ditch. Some will go into the septic, and the septic system can deal with that.
 

relevante

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SRB (sulfur reducing bacteria) reacts with sulfate and metal ions to produce H2S. You will want to knock out SRB in your plumbing including water heaters, well, and nearby aquifer strata. SRB is said to be slow growing, so I am looking for 1 or more years of help, rather than months.

When you are finishing the sanitizing, you don't want all of the treated water to go to your septic system. Identify a place to dump that, such as into a ditch that you don't care much about the plants at the bottom of the ditch.
Ok, so it’s realistic to think they can be set back for an extended period if I’m thorough? That would be great. I’m likely still looking at some sort of ongoing treatment/filtration though, right? Or is this possibly a complete solution?

I’ve got quite a bit of gravel driveway within hose reach of everything so I figure that’s my dump site. Anything it kills there would be a welcome side benefit.
 

Reach4

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Yes, that is it.

Think about the flooding volume storage you will use.
 

relevante

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Yes, that is it.

Think about the flooding volume storage you will use.
OK, that would be amazing.

I figure I can run a hose and use my main house's well for this, supplemented by as many clean 5 gallon buckets as I can find. Provided I run the hose long enough, this is a good approach, right?
 

Reach4

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What is the diameter of well , depth of well, and depth of pump for each well?

I would prefer 33 gallon trash cans lined with plastic bags or drum liners over 5 gallon buckets. Rather than picking them up, use a siphon. The siphon hose would have to go down the casing a bit to get the needed altitude difference for a siphon. If you had a transfer pump, that would be an alternative to siphoning. The info from the first sentence of my reply is to estimate the needed flooding volume. A "full motion" waterbed mattress can hold more volume, but the trash cans can be useful for other things.

I would compute the volume between the bottom of the well and the pump. Then double that for a flooding volume target.

With picking up 5-gallon buckets it would be hard to not spill.

But your idea of using another well has merit. I was concerned that one of the wells would not already be sanitized, but I guess you could have enough sanitizing solution in the mix that the non-sanitized water would get mixed with the bleach+vinegar on the way down. So not needing containers for flooding volume sounds attractive.
 

relevante

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What is the diameter of well , depth of well, and depth of pump for each well?

I would prefer 33 gallon trash cans lined with plastic bags or drum liners over 5 gallon buckets. Rather than picking them up, use a siphon. The siphon hose would have to go down the casing a bit to get the needed altitude difference for a siphon. If you had a transfer pump, that would be an alternative to siphoning. The info from the first sentence of my reply is to estimate the needed flooding volume. A "full motion" waterbed mattress can hold more volume, but the trash cans can be useful for other things.

I would compute the volume between the bottom of the well and the pump. Then double that for a flooding volume target.

With picking up 5-gallon buckets it would be hard to not spill.

But your idea of using another well has merit. I was concerned that one of the wells would not already be sanitized, but I guess you could have enough sanitizing solution in the mix that the non-sanitized water would get mixed with the bleach+vinegar on the way down. So not needing containers for flooding volume sounds attractive.
Unfortunately I don't know any of those variables at the moment (we haven't moved yet and I'm not there today). Of course I can find the diameter as soon as I am there, but what I do know is that it is supposedly an extra high capacity "commercial" well that was installed because a previous owner had an agricultural operation there with greenhouses, so the volume might be rather large. So I guess I was thinking of using the hose method, adding bleach and vinegar as I go and just aiming for a large overkill amount. The largest number I see in the Moravec tables is 400 gallons of SWV and 40 gallons of flooding. So maybe if I was getting e.g. 3GPM out of my garden hose from the other well, I'd just run it for an hour, running around 180 gallons and adding the appropriate amount of chemistry along the way. Other than wasting time and a few dollars is there any downside to overdoing it?
 

Reach4

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https://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/1603.html might give some info.

I am not sure about overdoing it. With neighbors, you would not like them sniffing chlorine. Since you are more isolated, that should be less of a problem. Also, in using a different well to provide the water, if you did not have a chemical injector or avoid dilution some other way, solution dilution could be a problem I would think.

City water is allowed to have up to 4 ppm of chlorine. A fresh nose can smell that.

Top center column of https://www.geotechenv.com/Reference_Pages/water_measure_tables.pdf has well volume per foot.
 

relevante

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If my math is right, achieving 200ppm of bleach in 180 gallons of water with 7.5% bleach is just 180 * 200 / 1000000 / 0.075 = 0.48 gallons of bleach. So if I just work in about a half gallon of bleach and a corresponding amount of vinegar over the hour that it's running I should be more or less OK as far as dilution goes, no? As for backflushing the aquifer and turning it into pool water , I definitely wouldn't want to overdo that and make my new neighbors angry, but I am at least a few hundred feet from the nearest well, so it seems like that would take a pretty massive amount of overdoing. I hope. Most likely the rotten egg smell in their wells will help cover up any trace amounts of residual chlorine anyway I would guess.

Actually my main house well is the closest well, so at least I'd probably be the first to know if there's an issue.

But your point is well taken that there's an upper limit to the amount of overdoing it that might be a reasonable idea.
 

Reach4

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I got the same numbers as you from calculating. But in practice you need more bleach, because the bleach reacts in the course of doing its job. So you need significantly more bleach and vinegar than those calculations would imply... Actually I don't bother trying to calculate the pH change except to put the lower end amount as a starting value. I use around 3 x what I might calculate.
 

relevante

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Did this process yesterday and flushed everything out today. At the moment, even out in the barn where there is no filtration whatsoever, the sulfur smell is gone. Waiting for my test kit to see what else may need managed when I remove the leased systems, but this was definitely great first step. Thanks for the advice.
 
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