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Why Does My Water Smell Like Sewage?

The water from the faucet in your home should smell and taste good. Unfortunately, if you’re experiencing a foul odor resembling the smell of sewage, you might want to check and test your water source.

What Causes a Sewage Smell in Tap Water?

Several factors can contribute to the foul odor in the water. If the stench resembles rotten eggs or dirt, chances are, your water source might be infested with bacteria encouraged by decomposing food and waste.

Bacterial Growth and Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

According to studies, the causes of sewage odor in drinking water is sulfur bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas in your water source. Hydrogen sulfide produces the smell of sewage at higher levels. Both sulfur bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas are found in unprotected water sources such as private wells. Municipal water supplies often treat and maintain the water to avoid the issue of foul odor. Sulfur-reducing bacteria grows in the water heater, drain, and unprotected private wells.
The common causes of the presence of sulfur bacteria and hydrogen gas are organic matters that accumulate in the drain. These can be anything from food scraps to the residue of your shampoo. And since the bacteria thrive in such living condition, they produce heavy gas that goes up from the drain with every use of the water. As a result, you won’t notice that the cause of sewage smell is the gas coming from the drain.

Hydrogen sulfide is responsible for the smell of sewage in the water that comes from your faucet. You can smell hydrogen sulfide at its lowest level of .5 parts per million (ppm). At 1 ppm, you will experience a musty smell. The stink of rotten eggs in the water will be noticed at 2 ppm. Hydrogen sulfide can cause damage to your pipelines. If left unaddressed, the presence of the gas will leave black stains on plumbing fixtures and on your silverware. The smell of sewage is a sign that you need to take a look at the condition of your drinking water.

Bacterial Growth in Your Water Heater

Water heaters will experience the smell due to the anaerobic bacteria growth in the water and its reaction with sulfur, magnesium, and the anodes in the water heater. Sometimes, the smell can be traced to the magnesium heating rod in the hot water tank. In this case, a sewage like odor generally occurs when you leave the house for a long vacation. Once you turn on the hot water, you’ll be surprised by a rotten egg smell. In other cases, turning the thermostat low will encourage anaerobic bacteria to grow and thrive in your heater. Fortunately, the odor doesn’t have an adverse effect on your health. However, you need to inspect the cause of the changes in water quality to get rid of its nasty smell.

Bacterial Growth in the Drain

Over time, decaying organic matter deposited down a drain can lead to a sewage smell emanating from the drain itself. If you notice that the water smells normal and that the odor comes from the water source itself, it could be due to harmful bacteria growing within the drainage system.

Sewage Smell in Well Water

Although this problem isn’t as common, it can be severe. An improperly located septic system could potentially cause drainage from a septic tank to contaminate your water supply. In this case, you should contact your county health department immediately, eliminate the source of the problem as soon as possible, and preferably install a water treatment system to ensure the continued safety of your drinking water.

What To Do If Your Water Smells Like Sewage

Before treating your water supply to correct the problem, you’ll need to identify the source.

1. Identify the source

The first thing to do when you’ve noticed the smell of sewage in your faucet water is to inspect the cause and run a test to check the water chemistry. Since magnesium sulfide gas can live in the drain and pipelines, smell the water away from the drains to make sure your assessment is correct. Upon checking, you’ll find out the real culprit behind the smell. The simple process of stepping away from the sink will help determine the source of the problem. The isolation technique is done to identify whether the sewage smells come from the drain or from the water itself. Most likely, if it’s not in the drain and pipelines, it’s definitely in the water source.

2. Test the water supply

The best thing to do is to test the water for its chemistry. If your water comes from a well, the natural groundwater chemistry of the area could be contributing to bacterial overgrowth. Whether you’re using municipal water supplies or a private well, there’s a high probability your water source is responsible for the unpleasant smell. Sewage smell is a clear indicator of contaminants in your drinking water. Locating the source of a smelly water problem will help you determine the origin of the foul odor.

How to Fix a Sewage Smell in Tap Water

In some cases, the culprit can be the water heater. For households with a water heater, the best solution is to turn up the temperature of the device overnight to eliminate the cause of the odor. The turning up of temperature will help flush off the anaerobic bacteria.

If the smell is coming from the drains, some household cleaning products can get rid of the foul odor. If the smell is isolated to one particular sink drain, try pouring baking soda and hot water down the drain to clear out food waste and organic matter that could be causing the problem.

If you rely on a private well, you can treat the water with shock chlorination to discourage the growth of bacteria in the groundwater. Find out the cause of the bacterial growth in the well to stop the sewage smell. If you live in farmlands, make sure agricultural supplies and animal waste and feeds do not go into your private well. Shock chlorination treats the water from pollutants that cause sewage smell. You may need a filtration system that has an activated carbon filter to remove the impurities. Private wells harbor dissolved salts and minerals, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. If you don’t run regular testing and maintenance, you’ll be surprised at the high levels of bad microorganisms and chemicals in the well.

Water Filtration System Solutions

Unclear and impure water calls for the best solution once you’ve found the culprit. A high-quality water filtration system will filter and eliminate contaminants that disturb the quality of your drinking water supply. Choosing the right treatment system can sometimes be overwhelming. With the right filtration, you’ll get all the help you need with the best solution to your sewage smell problem. In cases where you’ve noticed the smell or taste of sewage in your water supply, do a quick test and set up the appropriate water filter treatment system to solve the smelly problem.

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