Hydrogen sulfide generally gives well water the characteristic of smelling like a rotten egg. It is highly unpleasant as it causes a rotten taste and odor. There are problems associated with hydrogen sulfide and here are the most common.
Hydrogen sulfide gas can result from a number of different sources. It can occur naturally in groundwater, or it may be produced by certain “sulfur bacteria” in the groundwater, in the well, or in the water distribution system. It can be produced also by sulfur bacteria or chemical reactions inside water heaters.
In a lot of cases, the rotten egg smell does not actually relate to the sanitary quality of the water. Sulfur bacteria are not harmful, but the hydrogen sulfide gas in the air can be harmful at high levels. Sulfur bacteria can produce a slime and can promote the growth of other bacteria, such as iron bacteria. This slime can clog wells, plumbing and irrigation systems. Hydrogen sulfide gas in water can cause black stains on silverware and plumbing fixtures. It is also possible that it could corrode pipes and other metal components of the water distribution system. Another nuisance associated with hydrogen sulfide includes its corrosiveness to metals such as iron, steel, copper, and brass. It can harm silverware and discolor copper and brass utensils. It can also cause yellow or black stains on kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Coffee, tea and other beverages made with water containing hydrogen sulfide may be discolored and the appearance and taste of cooked foods can be affected.
There are some health concerns associated with hydrogen sulfide in well water. Generally, hydrogen sulfide is flammable and poisonous. That is not at risk at the concentrations present in household drinking water, except in very high concentrations. Such concentrations are very rare, but hydrogen sulfides presence in drinking water, when released in confined areas has been known to cause nausea, illness and in very extreme cases, death.