What's in Your City Water Supply? Part One

by Dan M Published 7.30.2015

City water supplies generally come from surface water sources.  Surface water sources can be lakes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs and virtually any large collection of water.  Now, think about your local lake for a minute. Is the water clear; can you see the bottom of the lake on a sunny day? If the lake is clear does that mean the water is free of contaminants and safe to drink?  What if the water is cloudy and dirty?  What is the cause of cloudiness and could it be harmful to me?  I bet you have not really thought about how your city deals with removing contaminants from the water supply.  So, let’s take a look at how cities treat water.

Most water treatment facilities utilize the same basic treatment operations, so I am going to focus on one city in particular, Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland gets its water from Lake Erie, one of the best fishing lakes of the great lakes. Water is drawn in through large screens miles off shore to ensure that it starts out as clean as possible.  (Water drawn near the shore has a high potential to be more concentrated with surface run-off and pollution.) The screens help remove large organic matter such as fish, plants and garbage, to name a few.  The water is then drawn to a rapid mix where chemicals are added for the first phase of treatment.  These chemicals are comprised of a disinfectant, a chemical for taste and odor and a coagulant.  For Cleveland city water these three chemicals are chlorine, activated carbon and alum.  Alum is a coagulant used to bind small particles into large clumps that can be filtered out or that will settle out of the water.  The settling out process is called sedimentation. The water continues to be filtered through large-scale sand and coal filters which will remove smaller organic particles that did not settle to the bottom of the tank during the sedimentation process.  Finally, after the water travels through sand and coal filters, it is again treated with more chemicals.  Cleveland water has chlorine added for disinfection, fluoride for dental hygiene (It is a law in the state of Ohio that fluoride be added to all city water supplies.) and orthophosphate to help reduce the leaching of lead from household pipes.  The water is then deemed good for distribution. 

That is a very simple explanation of how a city water treatment plant treats water.  But even though the water has been disinfected and filtered, I go back to my original questions. Is the water free of contaminants or could it still be harmful to me? It is important to note that city water treatment facilities are closely regulated and undergo strict inspections.  Water that is distributed from the facility is within a healthy range for consumption for the majority of the population that utilizes the water and the general public is notified about any possible contamination from a regulated substance.  However, it is not regulated to protect your home.  Additionally, most city water is not treated to remove taste and odor, hardness, iron, lead, pharmaceuticals and many other natural and man-made substances. 

In my next blog, we’ll take a look at what could be left in the water (bacteria, lead, iron, hardness minerals?) after it has gone through the city’s water treatment process and what you can do about it.


Garret A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant in Cleveland, Ohio.

Contact Dan M.

Can (and should) you take your water treatment equipment with you when you move?

by Diana M Published 4.29.2015

The purchase of water treatment equipment is an investment in your home. Obvious benefits of water treatment are the aesthetics of conditioned water: clear water, clean fixtures, soft skin and hair, great tasting water. The benefits extend past the aesthetics, though; treating the water can protect the home’s plumbing, faucets, tubs, sinks and water-using appliances from damage caused by problem water.

When it’s time to move, you need to consider what to take on the move and what to leave behind. In the not-too-distant past, appliances were all packaged and moved. Now, often, they are being left in the home as a selling point. So when it comes to your water treatment equipment, is it possible to take it with you, or should you just leave it in the home?


It is possible to take your water treatment equipment when you move, so the choice is yours. There are a few things to keep in mind, though, when making your decision.

Purchasing a good water treatment system can be a bit more involved than purchasing other appliances. Done properly, the water quality should be accurately measured and the water treatment equipment accurately sized. For the new home buyer, finding that quality water treatment equipment is already in place can be a relief and major selling point. The effects of great water in the home are measurable. A clean toilet tank can be a solid indicator of the care previously provided the home. The buyer may realize that they can move in with assurance that the water is one less thing to think about while settling in.

For the seller, your love of the great water might inspire you to take the water treatment equipment with you. You’ll want to investigate the water at your new location before making this decision. Confirm that both the size of the new home and the water quality at the new home are within operating parameters of the equipment you plan to take with you. A water treatment expert in the area of the new home can help with this information, or a water treatment report from the new municipality can be shared with the original installing water expert and they can help determine if the current products are viable for the new site. They can also disconnect and package the equipment for a safe journey to their new home.

We understand that great water could have you ready to disconnect that softener yourself, but it’s best to invest some time and do your homework before making your decision. Happy trails!

Contact Diana M.

Third Party Certification of Water Treatment Products

by Guest Bloggers Published 11.7.2014

 L. Heiden has been in the water treatment business for more than 25 years. Currently, she is a National Account Executive for UL and is an active member of the Water Quality Association.

Several years ago, I happened to be traveling in Mexico to do some product training. I was out and about one day and came across Mexico’s version of a big-box, do-it-yourself stores. I went in to have a look because this is one of the things I most enjoyed when I traveled. Grocery and DIY stores always offer a glimpse into how people in that country live. Being in the water treatment industry, the first place I headed was the plumbing aisle.

I was interested to see what types of drinking water filtration and whole house systems they offered. After all I was in Mexico and was always told not to drink the tap water. What a perfect place to sell an under the counter drinking water system. Surprisingly though, I really did not see much in the way of whole house water treatment or drinking water systems. What I did find was a standard filter housing that utilized a cartridge to filter water. What further surprised me was that this simple filter cartridge had an NSF certification label right on the package.

NSF certification ensures that a product meets strict standards for public health protection and that the manufacturer complies with the strict standards and procedures imposed by NSF. All kinds of products including automotive, building and water treatment products can be NSF certified.

Certified stamp

Kinetico water treatment products are certified to NSF standards. Kinetico drinking water systems and filters are much more complex and offer much more extensive protection than the simple filter I found in the DIY store in Mexico. I always thought having NSF certification meant a product was of better quality than others so I was really confused that the modest Mexican filter was certified as well. As it turns out, the NSF standards for potable water encompass many different types of certifications. That is why it is so important to understand what type of certification to look for.

NSF Standards

NSF 42 is a certification which claims reduction of taste and odor, particulates and some chloramine reduction. This certification does not offer any health effect claims. A product having NSF 42 might be a sediment or carbon filter and could be a POU or POE device (see POU and POE explanation blog). A product having this certification must only meet the minimum reduction claims for the particular contaminant listed. It is not required to remove 100% of the contaminant in order to be certified to NSF 42. Particulates are listed by class I to VI to establish the size of particulates the product filters down to I being the smallest or submicron.

NSF 53 is a certification that offers health effect claims for specific contaminants in the water such as, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead, and MTBE. A product having NSF 53 might be a sediment or carbon filter and could be a POU or POE device. The manufacturer may include a performance indication device for these types of products which indicates when it is time to change the media or filter cartridge. A product’s performance data sheet will include a list of the specific contaminants that the product is certified to remove or reduce. If you cannot find this information ask that it be provided to you.

NSF 58 is a certification that applies to drinking water systems using a reverse osmosis element to reduce total dissolved solids (TDS), as well as having health claims such as reduction of VOC, lead, cyst and in some cases additional claims such as arsenic, nitrate and nitrite to name a few. Check the performance data sheet to find out what specific contaminants are being addressed by a given product.

NSF 55 is a certification for ultraviolet lights used for disinfection of water. This certification offers two classes. Class A can be used on contaminated water and Class B is for use on water already deemed safe to drink for additional protection. NSF 61 is a health effects claim which tests the materials of construction of the product for leaching of harmful contaminants into the water. This certification shows the materials are safe to use for drinking water applications.

NSF 372 is a lead content standard that can be used to verify the lead content of any product, material or component that conveys or dispenses water for human consumption.

There is one more thing about NSF certification that should be mentioned. Some products are NSF certified; however, the certifier is not NSF. The reason for this is that products are certified to a particular standard by a certifying body. The standards are written by an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited standards developer such as NSF or Underwriters Laboratories. Once the standards are set, products can be certified by any ANSI accredited lab. For example, Kinetico products are not certified directly by NSF but rather by the Water Quality Association (WQA) to NSF/ANSI standards.

Armed with all of this information you should be better informed on the different types of certification for POU/POE systems for water treatment. The reason companies choose to use a third party certification is to provide an assurance to their customers that the claims they are making about their products have been validated and verified by a certified third party. This allows peace of mind to the consumer who is purchasing the product.

Want to learn more? Check out the following resources.

Understanding the In-Home Water Test

by Diana M Published 10.2.2014

Kinetico Dealers offer free in-home water tests. Many people call Kinetico Consumer Relations to ask why we require a representative in their home to test the water. Some are concerned that they will be subjected to a hard-sell salesman who won't leave until the homeowner makes a purchase. Some view the water test as hocus-pocus water changing colors just for effect, with no real value.

The in-home appointment serves multiple purposes and is designed to establish a relationship between the homeowner and the water treatment provider. The water treatment expert tests the water for a variety of problem-causing materials, and discusses the homeowners' water concerns and expectations. The benefits of treated water are reviewed using a variety of hands-on visuals. A plumbing and installation site analysis helps pull all the other information together to ensure the proper equipment is installed.

hands holding test tube

Our standard in-home water test includes testing for hardness, iron, pH and TDS (total dissolved solids). Depending on the area of the country, it may also include checking whether the iron is ferrous or ferric (dissolved or particulate), and testing for manganese, hydrogen sulfide (often called "sulfur"), tannins and chlorine. The best test results are achieved on site and in real time. In a drawn sample, the characteristics of iron, hydrogen sulfide, manganese and chlorine can change quickly. The in-home analysis provides immediate results, is free and might be more accurate for some things such as hydrogen sulfide and iron.

Ferrous iron (dissolved iron), also known as clear water iron, is invisible in the water but leaves stains on clothing, fixtures, toilets and bathtubs. A drawn glass of water with ferrous iron left sitting may develop reddish-brown sediment at the bottom of the glass. That sediment is ferric (particulate) iron. Ferrous iron becomes ferric or particulate iron once it's been exposed to oxygen.

Ferrous iron and ferric iron require different methods of treatment. Ferrous iron can be removed from the water using a water softener. The level of ferrous iron and the amount of hardness (along with the plumbing audit) determines the size softener required for the home. Ferric iron requires filtration. This filtration might be a simple in-line sediment filter, but higher levels of ferric iron require a more aggressive type of treatment, such as a mechanical backwashing filter.

Manganese testing and treatment are similar to that of iron. Manganese in the water can result in gray or black stains. Again, this can be treated either with a softener or filtration system depending on whether the manganese is dissolved or particulate.

Hydrogen sulfide is usually present as a rotten-egg-smelling gas. The method used to treat hydrogen sulfide is dependent upon the rest of the water quality. For instance, if the hydrogen sulfide is a low-level gas, the Dealer might install an aeration tank that vents the gas. Or, if the hydrogen sulfide level is high with a lot of iron, an oxidizing agent might be introduced—usually chlorine which eliminates the hydrogen sulfide and oxidizes the iron to ferric iron, which is then filtered. Accurate tests are crucial to make certain your treated water is odor-free.

Chlorine is tested on-site for a couple of reasons. The pre-filter in the reverse osmosis drinking water system is selected based on the absence or presence of chlorine. The pre-filter assists performance and provides longevity to the workhorse of the RO—the membrane—by protecting the system from chlorine or sediment that is present in the incoming water.

Knowing the chlorine level also ensures the proper water softener or dechlorination system is installed. Chlorine can shorten the life of your softener if it is not dealt with properly.

Treating the water is truly a scientific process—no hocus-pocus. There is a proper detailed method of diagnosis and many proven methods of treatment. Third-party, unbiased organizations such as the Water Quality Association and the American Water Works Association are great sources of information about water testing and treatment. You can read more at www.wqa.org or www.awwa.org. Or of course, you can always call your local water treatment expert and let them guide you through the processes.

Contact Diana M.

How My Conditioned Water Turned Me Into a Water Snob

by Diana M Published 1.2.2014

My name is Diana and I’m a water snob. After having water treatment equipment installed in my home and living with the difference the equipment can make, I’ve become accustomed to a certain condition of water.

I expect my home and self to have a clean, fresh appearance. My conditioned water helps me to achieve my expectations. Conditioned water eliminates the hardness minerals that cause unsightly stains and soap scum build up. Build up that can be in the plumbing, on tubs, sinks and faucets, in water using appliances and even on our skin and hair and clothes.

I have no use of harsh cleaning agents in my bathroom, kitchen, laundry and self. I use eco friendly cleaners and much less of them. The cleaners are not fighting the grime in the dishwasher or clothes washer, they are concentrating strictly on the item needing to be cleaned. This leaves my dinnerware and clothing looking new, my home looking fresh and clean; as does my hair and skin. My use of skin lotions and hair conditioners is minimal and I’m pleased at how much longer they last.

Water snobbery includes expectations for the water used in our home that we don’t always see—‘working water’ as it’s known in the industry. I know that the plumbing running through my walls is filled with water flowing freely without internal build up or corrosion. I know that my water using appliances are operating at peak performance.

Illustration of water snobs

These luxuries are now expectations. I expect the water out of my drinking water faucet to be clean, crisp, and refreshing with no unpleasant after (or during) taste. I expect my drinking water to inspire me to drink more water.

I take my water snobbery with me everywhere I go. The town in which I live has 4 car washes. I’m in the snow belt, so there are a lot of dirty cars here in the winter. Just 1 of the car washes uses reverse osmosis water. Reverse osmosis removes almost every dissolved mineral, metal or chemical that might be in a water supply. I wait as long as I must to use this car wash instead of the others. It makes no sense to me to pay to wash my car only to arrive home and see it covered in spots.

I pre-judge a restaurant and its food simply by looking at the table. If the dinnerware is clean and spot-free, I expect an enjoyable meal. I imagine that my soup will not be tainted with unwanted flavors from the water and I will not have the need to polish my fork under the table to remove unsightly spots. Based solely on the sparkle of the tableware, I feel the establishment is clean and I can relax.

I also know that when the check for the meal arrives, I won’t be paying inflated prices that cover the costs of inefficiently operated appliances within the restaurant. Water heaters and dishwashers use much more energy when their operating components are coated with hardness minerals. The dishwashers will also use much more detergents and the establishment operators will probably select detergents with harsher cleaning additives to work against the hard water and perform their intended job.

Detergents that can end up back in the water supply perpetuating the water problem, but we can discuss the life cycle of water another time.

I’m not alone as a water snob. This is a common fate of folks in the water treatment industry. A coworker and I were discussing a work-related trip she had been on. One look into her Hard Water Hotel bathroom told her volumes about her next morning.

From the stains in the bathroom, she knew that her morning beverage was not going to be the flavor she expected, it would be tainted by whatever stained the bathroom. She knew she could possibly be in for a bad hair day from the lingering minerals in her hair and that little bottle of shampoo was definitely not going to get her far. Her skin would probably feel tight, dry and itchy. What ended up surprising her was spotting on her pedicure and the amount of time required to buff her freshly painted digits of the hardness.

Are you a water snob? Do you share any of the characteristics of a water snob? Or do you have water heater elements that burn out before their expected time? Do you use a lot of ‘elbow grease’ cleaning the shower? It’s not just about seeing spots, although the aesthetics are huge. It’s also about efficiency with time, energy and environment. I would encourage everyone to be a water snob.

Contact Diana M.

Is drinking water your home's only water safety concern?

by Keith B Published 10.24.2013

As water treatment professionals, most of our time is spent thinking about improving the quality of either drinking water or working water. (Working water is water used for cleaning, washing clothes, cars, dishes etc.) For drinking water, we often focus on aesthetics and health concerns, and for working water we typically just focus on the aesthetics. However, there is a third category when considering water used for bathing, swimming or playing where aesthetics and some unique health effects are of concern.

Recently several articles have been written, including one by Matthew Hamilton on latimes.com, about the “Brain Eating Amoeba” found in the drinking water supply of a parish in Louisiana. The amoeba is said to cause a fatal brain infection called Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) by being introduced into the sinus through the nose. Infections created by this amoeba are quite rare with CBS Houston reporting a total of 32 cases in the US from 2001 to 2010. Of concern is an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which is found quite frequently in warm, relatively stagnant waters throughout the southern United States. Louisiana state health officials report that drinking the water containing the amoeba does not cause illness, since stomach acid kills it. Most previous infections have been contracted by people swimming in these warm waters, getting water in their nose in the process. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Naegleria fowleri is commonly found around the world in warm fresh water, the number of reported cases is surprisingly low.

Photo of water splashing on a child's hands

Tragically, these most recent articles recount the death of a 4 year old boy from this disease, which he contracted after playing on a “Slip 'n' Slide” fed with municipally-supplied water in that parish. Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist with the CDC, stated that this was the first time that Naegleria fowerli has been found in a treated water supply in the US. CBS Houston and several other news agencies are raising the question if Hurricane Katrina might be the cause of the contamination. Their thought process is that after Katrina, so many people left the parish that the water lay dormant in the supply pipes for longer periods than it had before the hurricane, when the system was serving more people. As a result, the chlorine residual may have dissipated, allowing the organisms to grow. Presently, the parish is increasing chlorine content and flushing the water lines, which has some residents complaining about the taste.

Once again, we find ourselves faced with questions about the quality of our tap water—not because of problems at the central treatment plant, but possibly because of conditions outside of its control. In this case, buying bottled water is of little help since taking a shower, bath or playing in the water would be the cause of infection. As a home owner, options for treatment might include a point of entry (POE) solution like ultraviolet (UV) treatment or whole house water filtration, sized properly by an authorized source. Or, if your municipality has increased chlorine content in your water, you could use a point of use (POU) treatment system to remove the taste of chlorine from your drinking water.

Even if you don’t live in a warm climate like Louisiana’s, it never hurts to get your water checked out. I have been in the water treatment industry for a long time, and I have seen how contaminants in your water can cause all kinds of problems for your family and home. As I wrote in an earlier post, I find that it’s best to be proactive and informed about my home’s water quality, just in case.

Contact Keith B.

How a Reverse Osmosis System Works

by Abbey R Published 9.27.2013

With every passing year we learn more about what is in our water and the effects those contaminants can have on our health. It takes the EPA years of study to figure out what is an acceptable level for contaminants in our water or how best to treat them. Contaminants in residential drinking water can include almost anything, from industrial waste that was dumped in a river, to fertilizers and household cleaning products. Many times, treatment involves adding a chemical to the water to neutralize the contaminant—for instance, chlorine is added to water to control the amount of microbes—but these chemicals can give water undesirable tastes or odors. Technology like reverse osmosis systems exists to remove contaminants from water without adding any chemicals.

Reverse osmosis (RO) systems are becoming an increasingly important, needed appliance in our homes. RO systems utilize your water pressure and a semi-permeable membrane to reduce contaminants for great-tasting water without adding any chemicals. They are typically used to purify drinking water which is where contaminant levels matter the most. Some areas, however, have such terrible water that an RO system is used for the entire home.

Every reverse osmosis system has at least four parts: a prefilter, an RO membrane, a storage tank and a postfilter. Water supplied by the city or a well enters the system through the prefilter, which protects and extends the life of membrane by filtering out the things that can harm it, like chlorine and sediment.

A reverse osmosis membrane uses a semi-permeable membrane to separate water molecules from other molecules. “Semi-permeable” means that some things can pass through and others can’t. A familiar example would be your furnace’s air filter, although, semi-permeable membranes for water treatment allow passage based on the size of the particle as well its molecular charge whereas typical air filters separate the contaminants exclusively by size. Holes or pores in the membrane are sized just big enough for the passage of a water molecule—even small contaminants such as tobacco smoke or paint pigments are too big to go through an RO membrane. At this point, because the membrane only lets certain molecules pass through, there is some waste liquid with a highly concentrated amount of contaminants that goes to the drain. The virtually contaminant-free water that makes it through the membrane, called a permeate stream, is safe to drink and tastes great.

Reverse osmosis technology relies on pressure to push the water molecules through the. Water pressure varies with your water source. City water is usually supplied between 40 and 100 psi (pounds per square inch). Well water is usually less pressure, delivered between 20 and 60 psi depending on your pump. The production rate of the membrane is dependent on factors such as temperature, pressure and Total Dissolved Solids levels. Because flow and production rates vary, most RO systems also have a storage tank, allowing more pure drinking water to be available on demand, so you can fill your glass or pitcher much faster.

Because the water is so pure, bad tastes and odors from the storage tank’s bladder and walls can find their way into the water during prolonged contact, so they must be taken out. That’s why a postfilter is an important part of the reverse osmosis system; any odors or tastes picked up from the storage tank are removed and the water is once again great-tasting.

To raise the pH if it is too low, whole house systems use a “polisher” after the postfilter, which adds minerals to the water which protect the pipes and which come people feel enhances the water’s taste.

Sometimes seeing is believing. Personally, I love seeing ice cubes made with RO water because they are virtually colorless. Ice cubes made from city-supplied tap water are almost white in color, which tells me that there are minerals mixed in with the water molecules. Whenever I see transparent ice cubes, I know the RO system must be removing a lot from my water. If your home has questionable drinking water, maybe it’s time to check out a reverse osmosis drinking water system—you won’t regret it.

Contact Abbey R.

The Better Water Blog 1-Year Anniversary

by Kinetico Published 7.1.2013

Illustration of a tablet showing the blog, and a half-eaten slice of birthday cake

Time really does fly when you're having fun, doesn't it? Over the last year, we have tried to bring you posts that help you understand, value and respect life's most vital resource: water. We know some of you have been with us from the very beginning, and we're really grateful for that. But for those of you who are new to the Better Water Blog, here are some posts you could start with from this time last year.

Why are Boil Water Alerts So Important?

By Cathy J in The Science of Water

Have you ever had a Boil Water Alert (BWA) issued in your area? These public warnings can be worrisome if you've never heard them before. You may ask yourself, "Is my water really safe?" Cathy answers some common questions about BWA's in this informative first-ever Better Water Blog post.

How a Water Softener Works—Mystery Solved!

By Stuart P in Water Treatment Technology

Stuart's fascinating, lighthearted post clears up some of the mystery behind water softeners. Even if you already know all there is to know about ion exchange, water softeners, soap curds and electrons, you'll enjoy the fun, straightforward video presentation where we get to see how water softening works close-up, featuring Mr. Resin Bead! 

We All Have Our "Just In Case"...Mine Has To Do With My Drinking Water

By Keith B in Water in the News

Keith explains a few of the reasons why he and millions of others rely on reverse osmosis filtration for drinking and cooking water. "Better safe than sorry" is his philosophy as he illuminates some of the effects that fracking and PPCP's (Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products) might have on your water.

Steve Schimoler: Using Pure Water to Give Your Recipes Pure Flavor

by Guest Bloggers Published 6.17.2013

Based on Steve’s passion for cooking, innovation and creating the best flavor in his recipes, he realizes that no ingredient is to be overlooked, including water. In 2012, Steve teamed with Kinetico to prove the notion that purified water is core to creating great-tasting dishes in his restaurant and in the home. Read more about culinary expert Steve Schimoler.

View this video on Kinetico's YouTube channel

As a chef, I’ve been very fortunate to work in various capacities within the restaurant and food arenas. My experiences have helped provide me with a unique perspective in the appreciation of flavor and product development. There are so many variables that can impact flavors during cooking, but it wasn’t until I started working with our Kinetico water filtration system that I fully realized how important our water quality affected the flavor in my foods.

After 12 months of testing and working with the different blends and levels of filtration through our system in the Crop Bistro kitchen, I have come to the conclusion that our best results were with our Reverse Osmosis (R/O) water. It seems so simple, but by using the R/O water that is absolutely pure, I was not competing with any off flavors or aromas that were interfering with the flavor of the ingredients that were being featured in the dishes we prepare. Just like painting, you need to start with a totally blank and clean canvas when cooking. As a chef, I go out of my way to find and procure the best ingredients, why wouldn’t I want pure water! Water can be the majority of so many recipes and if it’s not pure, my other ingredients suffer.

The minute I started to look at water when I was reducing or simmering sauces or soups it became so apparent that when the water contained impurities, I was concentrating them by as much as double or more. Not a good thing…

So now I’m hooked and somewhat obsessed with learning more about our most basic yet valuable ingredient.

In future blog posts, I will share more culinary insights that you can use in your own kitchen, including exploring the many benefits of purified water.  Stay tuned.

Hydrogen Sulfide in Well Water

by Cathy J Published 10.20.2012

“My water smells like rotten eggs.” This is a very common complaint from many homeowners but one that may be easily explained. Hydrogen sulfide, a compound that is widely known for its distinct rotten egg or sulfur odor could be the culprit. This colorless, flammable gas occurs naturally in gases from swamps and stagnant pools of water, volcanoes, hot springs or crude petroleum. H2S is also a waste product of many industrial processes and from municpal sewers and sewage treatment plants. The production of H2S is due to a process called anaerobic digestion, a breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.  A shower spraying rotten eggs into a bathtub

In well water supplies, H2S is commonly formed by sulfate reducing bacteria. Well water naturally contains minerals of sulfate picked up from soil and rock formations. Sulfur reducing bacteria can change sulfates in the water to hydrogen sulfide gas. In other cases, hydrogen sulfide in well water can be caused simply by the decay of organic matter.

The human sense of smell can detect H2S in concentrations as low as 0.5 ppb (parts per billion). In addition to the odor, the taste of the water may also be affected. If left untreated, H2S can corrode steel, stainless steel and copper pipes. It can also tarnish silver and leave yellow or black stains on bathroom fixtures. While the amount of H2S typically found in most household water supplies is not high enough to pose serious health risks, slight nausea can occur due to the foul odor.

There are several options to treat H2S in a water supply. Trace amounts of the gas can be handled by activated carbon. If you have low to moderate amounts of H2S in your water, the gas can be converted to elemental sulfur and then filtered out by using an oxidizing filter. High amounts of H2S may require more advanced treatment.

It is important to note, if the rotten egg smell is only present in the hot water, not in the cold water, chances are the problem lies in the hot water heater. All hot water tanks have an anode rod, which is in place to prevent corrosion of the tank. However, if anaerobic bacteria are present in the water, they can use the electrons produced by the corrosion of the anode rod as an energy source to produce H2S. One simple fix is to switch out the anode rod in the tank. Check with a reputable dealer for replacement anode types to ensure you keep the warranty intact. Turning the temperature up on the hot water tank for a short period of time to kill the bacteria may help. But, remember to turn the temperature back down and drain the tank, otherwise scalding may occur. Shock chlorination of a private well is a temporary solution as well. Although these fixes can reduce the odor problem, they aren’t permanent.

If you suspect you have H2S in your water, it is best to contact a water professional for further on-site testing and precise treatment solutions.

Contact Cathy J.

Water: Understand it, Value it, Respect it. Learn more about life’s most vital resource.

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