Question? Just ask us!
Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
InspectAPedia ® Home
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article discusses how to identify, diagnose, and cure common odors that may be present in drinking water. We also discuss which of these odors may warn of unsanitary conditions.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
Scott Bradley, Aquacheck Water Testing Laboratory
Although water as a pure compound, H2O, is colorless and odorless, contact with the earth's minerals and our distribution pipes may impart some flavor and odor characteristics.
The Threshold Odor Test Method
A subjective analysis called the Threshold Odor Test, number 2150b. in Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 19th ed., can give us an idea of the strength of the odor as compared to controls of varying degree of odor concentration. But how do you interpret what the underlying problem is when your water has a peculiar odor?
Sulphur Odors in Water
Some odors are a little more insidious and require a bit of background knowledge to deal with them effectively. If your source water runs through an area where naturally occurring sulfur is present, some sulfur may dissolve into the water. We provide a diagnostic procedure to track down the source of sulphur smells in water just below.
Some of this dissolved sulfur turns to the gas, hydrogen sulfide, and this can give the water a rotten egg type smelly odor.
Sulphur odors can also be caused by a failing hot water heater component, or by certain bacteria in the building plumbing system, conditions we also discuss below.
Sulphur smells in water can also occur in rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and can be caused by anoxia and algae which in turn may be caused by high nitrogen from agricultural runoff - a condition we discuss at WELL WATER CONTAMINANT SOURCES.
Causes of other odors and smells in buildings (not just in building water) are discussed in a series of odor diagnosis articles which are listed at the end of This article .
Since sulphur or "rotten egg" odors in drinking water are a very common complaint we'll look at this case next, continuing this article at Diagnosing and Correcting Sulphur Odors. We provide a detailed list of sewer and sulphur gas odor sources at Sources of Sulphur Odors in Buildings.
Question: My client complains of a "certain smell" in her water but she can't identify it
I've got a client whose weekend home I inspected in 2005. They now have two young children and she's complaining about a "certain" smell in her water. She can't identify the smell.
Rotten eggs? No. Oily? No. Chemical? No.
But she smells it on herself and on her children after a bath or shower and says her skin fees dry after a shower.
Another twist. They've got two wells. They switch from one to the other when one gets dry. This home is in Ancramdale, NY 12503, Columbia County. Pretty rural. Lots of farming and sheep farming, I think.
The client wants me to test both wells. But I'm not confident that any generic water tests will do the job in this case. I've looked at both of your articles: WATER POLLUTANT SOURCES and Other Common Water Smells or Odors
I've looked at these two pages and I've got Smith Lab's price sheet in front of me and I think I'm in over my head. I mean, this could cost them over $1,000 in lab fees alone for the two wells.
Any suggestions? - Arlene Puentes, ASHI
Reply: Starting Point for Chasing Down Unidentified Odors in the Water Supply
Who smells the odors?
Watch out: methane odors in a building water supply can be explosive (METHANE GAS SOURCES)
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: dead rodent smell in municipal water supply
I have been searching the internet and haven't had any luck finding an answer to a question I have, so I hope that you can help. My family and I just returned from a 2 week stay at my mothers and when I turned on the cold water tap to brush my teeth I noticed a strong dead mouse (or rodent) smell coming from the cold water only. We live in a suburban area with town water which is filtered with a kinetico whole house filtration system with water softener. I checked the water system and it seems to be working fine and no dead animals are to be seen in the salt container. My question is: is there a way for animals to get into the water line and die? seems kinda impossible, but I can't seem to figure out why our water would be smelling this way otherwise. Plus it maybe dangerous for our health if it is in fact a dead animal in our water supply. thank you for your help and I hope you can get back to me soon. - S.S. 1/5/2014
Reply: steps in tracking down a dead animal smell in drinking water
As the building is served by a community water supply, the chances of an animal inside the water supply are rather low or obscure; chances of a dead animal in your piping are also unlikely as one would expect a mouse or larger to block water flow - typically building water piping is 1/2 or 3/4" inside diameter, and an opening that would let an animal of any size in would also be a huge leak out - one likely to be observed. More likely there is a piping, water treatment or water pressure tank issue (if the building uses a pressure booster tank) - such as bacterial growth in the plumbing system.
Often "dead animal" smells are a sulphur like odor or "rotten egg" odor -
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE should be helpful, as might
If you indicated the odor were in hot water supply only I'd suspect an anode failure or bacteria in the hot water tank.
Indeed when a building is served by a private well, it is possible, depending on well construction, for an animal to enter and die therein; to be sure the water is safe to drink in such cases the occupants should discuss their observations and concerns with a water testing company and then have the water tested for potability.
Try the search box just below or if you prefer, post a question or a comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.