What is that awful smell in my water?
This is a pretty common complaint/inquiry in many regions of the US. I was first exposed to this water condition as a child. I remember distinctly the foul odor of rotten eggs as I attempted to drink from a public drinking fountain in upstate NY. I was immediately disgusted by the odor from the water and curious why it smelled that way.
The “rotten egg” smell in water is the caused by the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S). This gas, has an offensive odor, can be toxic and is corrosive. Hydrogen sulfide gas in water occurs as a byproduct of decaying organic compounds within the water source. Any presence of Hydrogen Sulfide in your water supply should be promptly corrected.
Most Hydrogen Sulfide conditions are the result of source contamination. Something occurs in your well or spring that introduces organic compounds that decay and create the gas. Another common situation is the presence of sulfate eating bacteria which can live in the water heater, water softener or other water treatment device if one is present. Your first step should be to have the water tested to determine the level of contamination and to determine if any other treatable conditions are present. It is relevant to know the full scope of what is in the water as it will impact how the condition is treated.
Hydrogen sulfide is considered a broad spectrum poison, meaning that it can affect several different systems within the body. It forms a complex bond with Iron in mitochondrial cytochrome enzymes, which results in inhibiting cellular respiration.
Hydrogen Sulfide gas is a highly toxic and combustible. Heavier than air, the gas tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Although it has a very recognizable odor at first, it will quickly deaden ones sense of smell, potential victims may be unaware of its presence until it is too late.