Sulfur in Drinking Water and Its Effects on You
What Is Sulfur
Sulfur is a natural element commonly found in drinking water. Through the water’s journey from the source to the tap, sulfur is easily dissolved by the water through the environment of rocks and soil it passes that contains sulfur-rich minerals. When water supply is also made up of rainwater, sulfur is found in abundance as rainwater is another natural source of sulfur.
In its natural environment, sulfur within soil is used as a food and energy source by bacteria. The bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide gas as a result of their metabolic functions. When this cycle occurs, passing water can obtain this gas and results in a recognizable sulfurous odor. When drinking water contains sulfur, although there is no immediate health danger, it has a smell that deters you from drinking the water your body needs.
Your Health and Sulfur
Your body uses sulfur to make up the proteins in your body. Sulfur is used to create connective tissue which supports your joints. Sulfur deficiency may contribute to joint pain and disease. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study alongside the Center For Disease Control (CDC). This study determined exposure to high levels of sulfur in drinking water can cause disruptions to the gastrointestinal system resulting in diarrhea, especially in infants.
Most sulfur-rich water is found in well water. The water may become tinted in color and give off the classic “rotten egg” smell. Sulfur bacteria contribute to the growth of other bacteria, such as iron bacteria. When this occurs in your well bacterial slime appears which clog the well, plumbing, and irrigation system. Bacterial slime may appear white, grey, black, or red-brown. Buildup of bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas in your well will cause pipe corrosion and corrosion to metal components of your water distribution system. In your home, silverware and plumbing fixtures may suddenly have black stains. These stains are signs that hydrogen sulfide gas is present in your well.
Sulfur itself is not harmful to humans unless there is a present sulfur allergy. We ingest sulfur in many aspects of our diet, including eggs, turkey, fish, chicken, and garlic. However, the hydrogen sulfide gas that is produced by the sulfur bacteria can become harmful at high levels. Removing the gas from the drinking water or venting the gas out of the well is vital for safe, well water. Venting or eliminating the gas will prevent the collection of the gas within low spaces, such as well pits, basements, crawl spaces, or even your home. If there is suspected hydrogen sulfide gas in your well or your well needs maintenance, be sure to bring in a well professional to enter the well pit.
A rotten egg smell could mean there is an issue with your water heater or hydrogen sulfide gas in your well. To determine the source, leave your home for a while and then come home and smell the water from both hot and cold faucets.
Is the smell in the cold water faucet? If not, the problem is likely the water heater.
If the smell is released from the cold water faucet, now determine if the scent is released from a drain not connected to the water softener? If the answer is no, the problem is most likely sulfur bacteria built up in the water softener. If the answer is yes, is the smell less noticeable after the water has run for a few minutes?
If the water odor does not lessen over a few minutes, the problem is most likely hydrogen sulfide gas within the groundwater. If the water odor does reduce over a few minutes, the issue is likely sulfur bacteria in the well and plumbing system. At Crystal Clearwater, we offer state of the art water softeners, well servicing as well as sulfur filtration systems. As a one-stop-shop for well owners, we pride ourselves on more than 40-years of expertise, 24-hour emergency services, and 5-year warranty on all pump repair services. Call us today or visit our showroom!