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We are on well water and we have an iron filter and water softner both newer (2 years old) and we have smelly water but only the cold faucet and only for a few seconds when the cold water faucet is first turned on. Once the water runs for a few seconds the smell goes away. I have plugged the sink drain and the overflow hole to ensure I am not getting any fumes from those two sources which I was able to validate. The faucets are newer and the supply lines are newer (both 2 years old). We have had our well chlorinated one year ago which eliminated the smell but only for about 3-4 months. We have had the water softner people put chlorine into the system and let it sit for 8-12 hours which cleared up the smell but again only for 2-3 months. Any ideas on remediating this issue?


From a comment by the OP:

The shut off valves on was replaced 2 years ago as well. It smells like rotten egg. It happens in our master bathroom which my wife and I use and is the most used bathroom. The position of our bathroom places it closest to the water supply. It does not happen in the kitchen and that gets probably the most use of all the faucets in the house and is furthest from the water supply. When the well was chlorinated it did come out a medium to light grey color initially after turning our faucets back on.

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  • Was the shut off valve for that tap replaced or is it older than two years?
    – crip659
    Apr 19 at 16:57
  • What kind of smell? Sulfur? Sewage? Something else?
    – FreeMan
    Apr 19 at 17:10
  • Is this a problem on all cold faucets? If not, can you map it out in terms of distance from the well / entry point where iron filter and water softener are? Any "dead" legs, or rarely used fixtures where bacteria or gasses could accumulate?
    – P2000
    Apr 19 at 18:09
  • The shut off valves on was replaced 2 years ago as well. It smells like rotten egg. It happens in our master bathroom which my wife and I use and is the most used bathroom. The position of our bathroom places it closest to the water supply. It does not happen in the kitchen and that gets probably the most use of all the faucets in the house and is furthest from the water supply. When the well was chlorinated it did come out a medium to light grey color initially after turning our faucets back on.
    – Mike
    Apr 19 at 19:46
  • @George Anderson - you ran a strong chlorine solution throughout your home's plumbing that you seems to have eradicated the issue. Given your explanation and experience what do you believe is the root cause?
    – Mike
    Apr 19 at 19:51

1 Answer 1

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Sorry, but what you probably have is an anaerobic hydrogen sulfide colony somewhere in your pipes. If it smells like rotten eggs, that's probably the problem. After the chlorine treatment, did the water come out dark grey or black?

I'm on a well and had the same problem for years. After many treatments, I think I finally eradicated it.

I don't think chlorinating the well is strong enough. I make a strong bleach solution and pump it directly into the plumbing and run each faucet until I get the chlorine smell going. You may need to make some minor plumbing changes to get this to work. I use a large new, clean garbage can for the solution and pump it thru the system using a small pump. Given my plumbing I can re-circ it until all cold faucets are getting the solution. You gotta be creative here, it all depends upon your current plumbing setup. Exterior faucets, esp. in new builds have back flow preventers so you couldn't use them to feed in the solution. Hence the probably need for some minor plumbing changes.

Usually it's only the cold lines that have the smell. FYI: Getting all the chlorine out of the water heater is a real PITA. So I wouldn't run the hot water unless you get the smell when you turn on the HW. Since you'll have to be turning off the supply water, if you have a HW re-circ pump, turn it off, most of them don't play well with low or no water pressure.

It's a process but I believe you can fix it. It may take several treatments. It takes a STRONG bleach treatment to be effective. I use about 1 gallon of bleach per 3 gallons of water.

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  • What's a "anaerobic hydrogen sulfide colony". Do you mean bacteria (colony) in the well or pipes, producing hydrogen sulfide in an anaerobic reaction or digestion?
    – P2000
    Apr 19 at 18:02
  • I agree and sometimes it is in the pressure tank so bleaching the well and running the water until you smell bleach at each faucet and let it sit in the tank and lines, I have used 6 gallons before 3 to start and flush the lines then 3 more and let it sit for 6-8 hours then flush until no bleach Oder can be detected. If you have a string filter to stop sediment change it after flushing the bleach out.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 19 at 19:50
  • The sulfate reducing / anaerobic bacteria could very likely be in the well and even in the aquifer. Some oil wells are considered sour ( H2S) because these bacteria have gotten into the well. Bleach is the only practical solution. A small addition whenever the water runs works well. another option is not to smell the initial flow which contains most of the trace of H2S ( less than 1 ppm). It is very unlikely that you can kill bacteria in the aquifer. Apr 20 at 14:16
  • Agreed, these are tricky problems to solve. Like @EdBeal said the colony could be anywhere and it can't hurt to bleach the well and pressure tank. But given that the OP said the smell goes away after a short time of running the water tells me that the colony is in the plumbing, which was I experienced. BTW, there is a town on the Washington State Coast (I think Ocean Shores) that fought this problem for years. I believe they finally solved it after trying many different approaches. Apr 20 at 16:00

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