A distinct lack of smell

Confession time around here. All is not always perfect in paradise. Until this morning, the water here at the (not so) Urban Hennery smelled distinctly like rotten eggs, and had since we moved in. And while it didn’t actually taste bad, the odor was enough to convince you that it did.

It’s something that we knew from the home inspection, while Mike did, since I wasn’t at the inspection I was blissfully unaware until we moved in. Until I turned on the faucet the night we moved in I had no idea that our water smelled like the hot springs at Yellowstone.

The previous owners installed a whole house filtration system that reduces the odor a bit, but doesn’t completely eliminate it. And the filters are fairly short lived due to the volume of sediment (replace every 4 months) and odor (replace every 8 weeks) that the well produces. Depending on what’s causing the smell, the solution is either periodically shocking the well with chlorine, or installing a permanent system that injects either chlorine or performs osmosis or drilling a new well.

Last night we finally got around to shocking the well with chlorine bleach to start to figure out what’s causing it. So far we’ve eliminated the two major causes – the hot water heater and the water softener. We don’t have a water heater since we’ve got a Bosch hot water on demand system. And we by-passed the softener 2 weeks ago to see if that would help. It gave us a short term improvement, but no dice as a permanent solution.

So last night we put a shocking amount of bleach down the well to try to determine our next steps. It’s a crazy thing to do really. You put bleach down your well to try to make it smell better!?! And it takes a bit of time, but once it cycles through the effect is instantaneous. We had to run about 80 gallons of water through the system and back down the wellhead with a hose until the pump kicked in. When it did the change happened almost immediately. The water went from smelling bad to faintly smelling of chlorine. Since it was supposed to smell strongly per the instructions from the Snohomish Health District, we put some more bleach down the well until it smelled strongly.

Then we bled the chlorine through the whole system by opening the faucets, frost free hydrants and flushing the toilets until the water everywhere smelled of chlorine. After that it’s a waiting game. How long can you live without flushing a toilet, washing a dish or brushing your teeth? Luckily we remembered to fill all the pet water bowls, set up the coffee pot and brush our teeth before we chlorinated the system…

This morning we ran about 250 gallons of water through the outdoor faucets to flush the pressure tank and the well, then bled off the remainder through the house fixtures. Finally we replaced the sediment and carbon filters and ran a couple loads of towels in the washer and also the dishwasher to finish the flush.

As of now, the water smells faintly of chlorine when you first turn on the faucet, but it disappears in moments. And for the first time in 2.5 months, the water didn’t smell like rotten eggs when I took a shower.

Now we just have to wait to see how long it takes for the smell to come back. If it’s weeks then we’ve got sulfur in the water and we’ll need to evaluate more long-term options. If it’s months, then it’s sulfur bacteria and we can hopefully get by with periodically shocking the well to control the problem.

Yeah. On the one hand shocking the well was so much easier than we expected. On the other, who wants to have to contaminate their primary water source with chlorine on a semi-regular basis? But then again, it’s still pretty damn pure water. And we know that for sure since we had it extensively tested before we bought the place.