The gas known as hydrogen sulfide, or H2S for short, develops naturally through a variety of chemical reactions or as the direct result of a sulfur bacteria culture infestation. The primary characteristic of the water contaminated with gas consists of the pungent odor, which is similar to rotting eggs.

Purifying the water source, extraction system, pipeline and appliances requires a professional expertise. In order to determine the source, extent and optimal course of action, a battery of tests has to be performed on your well water system. Let’s find out the basics of hydrogen sulfate contamination, to better understand what you’re dealing with.

What causes the gas to develop?

The reasons why the water and water-distribution systems in your home are packing H2S are manifold. Bacteria species that thrive on sulfur often constitute the factor responsible for the gas when the contamination is present at groundwater level, within the extraction system or along the pipelines dispensing water to the outlets of the house.

At the same time, chemical reactions in the soil or between the materials of the pipes and the soil could be the culprit. Lastly, the hydrogen sulfide gas might stem from wastewater/pollution seeping into the underground water source tapped in by the well, but this incidence is infrequent.

Are there health risks associated with H2S contaminations?

Most frequently, the unpleasant odors does not imply that your water supply is unsafe to drink. The bacteria cultures responsible for the formation of hydrogen sulfide don’t represent a health hazard on their own. The issues arise when the H2S forms from wastewater or pollutant infiltration into the groundwater source. Testing the quality of the water will help you determine whether wastewater and pollution represent the H2S’ source or not.

Another aspect worth pointing out is that high accumulations of hydrogen sulfide within the confines of improperly ventilated room can be dangerous. This includes the well’s housing, basement and virtually all enclosures that are connected to the water pipes.

Additional issues associated with H2S

H2S producing bacteria might not be harmful on their own, but in certain cases they facilitate the development of iron bacteria. The latter category of microorganisms tends to form paired with sulfide bacteria and generate slime along the pipes and within the affected appliances (well, heaters, faucets, showers, etc.). The slime produced transforms into clogs over time and also corrodes metal parts and pipelines. In addition, the hydrogen sulfide will stain silverware and other appliances that come in contact with it.

Estimating the location of the contaminant gas

While you are advised to contact a specialized service to determine the presence, levels and position of the hydrogen sulfide contamination, using the following guidelines may confer a clue about what you can expect:

• Unpleasant odors triggered when the hot water faucet is running could indicate a contamination in the heater.

• Unpleasant odors triggered by both hot and cold water faucets running via the water softener exclusively may indicate the latter appliance is the culprit.

• Unpleasant odor that comes from both faucets and irrespective of whether the water passes through the softener, but fades after a certain period suggest a contamination within the distribution system and/or your water extraction unit.

• When the odor doesn’t fade after running the faucets for an extensive period, then the H2S might be present within the groundwater supply.