My parents have a brand new house built 3 years ago. It has city sewer and water and a 80 gallon electric water heater and a water softener. They had a plumber come to replace the anode rod and he rounded the top of it off and then told it's basically my parents problem now and said he would fix it and the estimate was $1000.00 to do so. Sorry this is about what to do about the smelly water.just added the plumber thing for anyone to comment on if they think that's what should happen if they screw the job up to begin with.also I think the smell goes away a little after you run water but comes back.

Now my parents are in their late 70's early 80's and are lost on what to do. Thanks in advance for any help.

  • Is the sulfur smell always there or does it go away after you run the water for a minute or two? Is it there for both hot and cold water? Are you sure the smell is from the faucet and not the drain? These are important pieces of information. BTW, $1k sounds ridiculous unless there's special circumstances going on. – Jaxidian Sep 6 '16 at 18:51

If it is indeed coming from the water source.

The term used is “sulfur water” which typically refers to water that has a rotten-egg odor that is caused by hydrogen sulfide.

Odor on hot side only. If the sulfur odor occurs only in the hot water, the most likely source is a reaction between an anode rod in the water heater and natural sulfate ions in the water. An anode rod is made from magnesium or aluminum, and its purpose is to protect the steel water heater tank from corrosion. Magnesium rods are more likely to cause the odor, so the first step would be to replace the magnesium rod with an aluminum rod, if available. If the aluminum rod still produces the odor, the next step would be either to operate the water heater without an anode rod or to remove the sulfate ions.

Removing the anode rod would remove its corrosion protection, potentially shortening the life of the water heater tank. There are FDA-listed corrosion inhibitors we can add to the water to extend the life of the tank.

Removing the sulfate can be accomplished by using a dealkalizer, a system similar in operation and cost to a water softener.

Odor in the cold water that goes away after water flows. In this scenario, the most likely source of the hydrogen sulfide is Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria (SRB’s). The bacteria are not considered pathogenic, but the “breathe in” sulfate ions and “breathe out” hydrogen sulfide, just like we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Just like an un-ventilated room full of people can get stuffy after awhile, a section of plumbing where there is no flow can get stinky after a while when SRB’s are present. Therefore, a characteristic of a rotten-egg odor due to SRB’s would be a strong odor in the cold water at first draw (for example, filling the pot for morning coffee), with the odor decreasing as the cold water flows.

Although rare, it is possible for SRB’s to colonize in the water heater tank but nowhere else. The tank holds too much water for the odor to flush out quickly. A relatively-easy test to determine if the water heater tank contains SRB’s is to raise the temperature to 140oF or higher for 48 hours, which will kill the bacteria. If the odor (hot side only) goes away, the odor was due to SRB’s; if not, it is due to the anode rod reaction.

Some laboratories can test for SRB’s, and field test kits also are available. Treatment would consist of shock-chlorination of the well and plumbing, with continuous chlorination if the odor returns too quickly.

Odor in the hot and cold water that does not decrease as the water flows. This is true hydrogen sulfide from the source aquifer. There are a number of treatment methods available, including Water Softener, Sulfur-Cleer and Iron-Cleer filters, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide chemical feed and carbon filtration. The choice will depend on the level of hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants (like iron) in the water as well as the peak flow rate (gallons per minute) and the peak daily water usage (gallons per day).

As with many water problems, the cause(s) may be complex and require in-depth exploration. For hydrogen sulfide, that exploration starts with finding the source.

  • I will look into that any ideas how to get the anode rod out after plumber rounded the nut off? – Brent Sep 7 '16 at 19:22
  • Why in the world did he round the nut off!? If the plumber round off the hex nut on the anode already in the water heater, he blew it. Sadly, nothing more can really be done except wait for the heater to rust out and replace it. I would call the plumber and ask why he/she rounded the nut off. The nut sits flush correct? – norcal johnny Sep 7 '16 at 22:22
  • Thanks for answering yes sits flat to the water heater but you pop off a lid and the is down about 3-4 inches but has plenty of room to get a socket on it. The plumber even use a pry bar on the nut. I called the Owner of the company and he said they had never had one that tight and he wasn't going to nothing about rounding the nut off. But they would fix it and told me that one of his estimates Was $1000.00 and I asked him how many point Socket did his worker use and he said 16 and I've talk to a couple of other plumbers and your suppose to use a 8 point socket. I guess I will have to file a C – Brent Sep 15 '16 at 3:19
  • (continued) Consumer Assistance Request Form With The Attorney Also Filing with the BBB. Its Not Right How They are handling this They should fix the Mess-up. From what other companies have told me. – Brent Sep 15 '16 at 3:19

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