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Does Your Water Taste or Smell Funny?

Taste & Odor Issues

There are a number of causes for foul tasting and odorous water. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Chlorine – commonly found in public water
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (“the rotten egg smell”) – caused by decaying vegetation
  • Other decaying organic matter
  • Other dissolving gases and minerals

 
Solution: Tank filters with activated carbon are used to absorb and filter out chlorine. However, on well water, chlorine is usually injected into the water supply to kill the odor, and then the chlorine is removed with activated carbon.

Water taste and water odor can be signs of a much more serious water contamination issue. It is imperative that you immediately contact a specialist and have them analyze the exact issue(s). Please do not take these seemingly small issues lightly as they can have large-scale effects on your family’s health and happiness.

Many contaminants can be found in the water supply here in the U.S. Here is a closer look at a few common complaints due to tap water smells and tastes:

One of the major organic causes of taste and odor are methyl isoborneol, which is an organic chemical with a strong odor and it is known to have major influence on the quality of drinking water. The other major organic cause of taste and odor in drinking water is geosmin, a naturally occurring compound produced by bacteria in soil and algae found in surface water. What happens is when algae is killed off by cold temperatures in surface water, that dead algae releases geosmin. Geosmin cannot be removed by every day water treatment solutions. While the taste and smell can be strong, geosmin is not harmful but you should still have issues of odor tested anyway.

Are you smelling a musty odor at the tap?

This musty odor may be caused by bacteria that is sitting in your drain or when a hot water heater is run at low temperatures or turned off for a period of time. A heavy gas (Hydrogen sulfide) fills the drain near the sink and is forced upward into the air around the sink when you turn the water on. In order to try to pinpoint where the smell is coming from, you can fill up a glass with water, walk away from your sink, and then smell the glass of water. If it no longer smells, then the smell is probably coming from the pipes and drain. In some cases, the smell only happens when using your hot water. If that’s the case, the smell is likely originating from bacteria growing in your hot water heater.

Does your tap water have an oddly sweet taste?

A few things can be the culprit here but it is most likely coming from your plumbing or pipes. Depending on the age of your building, your pipes could be causing either a sweet or salty taste. In some cases it’s your plumbing and having your pipes flushed could fix this issue. The sweet taste in your water happens when there is a large presence of calcium or iron or an imbalance in alkaline or pH levels. Other metals can cause your water to have a more bitter taste.

Does your tap water have a salty taste?

If your water is tasting like salt, it’s probably because there is salt in your water. This can happen in a number of ways; groundwater, rainwater, road salt, seawater, salt deposits etc. can find itself in the local water supply. What you are tasting is most likely caused by chloride ions and/or sulfates. While most causes do not cause any health risks, they can damage your pipes. For sources that can cause health risks we look at sewage contamination issues.

Do your dishes have a wet dog smell?

Don’t blame Buster…this smell is probably coming from your hot water pipe or bacteria. It could an environmental contaminant or due to the metal in your plumbing. This issue should be tested for bacteria.

Prevention

Water filters can help prevent bad tastes or smells. The use of a filtration system that connects directly to your building’s water supply can treat your water right when it’s dispensed and before it fills your cup. Since contaminants can have many different sources and most vary based on where you live, it is important to have a water specialist install these type of filtration systems. Have an expert diagnose your water issues promptly.

Water-Related Diseases: Arsenicosis – World Health Organization
Basic Information about Arsenic in Drinking Water – Environmental Protection Agency – 9/17/13
Arsenic in Drinking Water – Natural Resource Defense Council – 2/12/09
Radium and Your Drinking Water – The Department of the Environment, State of Maryland – 7/9/15
Basic Information about the Radionuclides Rule – Environmental Protection Agency – 3/6/12
MTBE – American Cancer Society – 7/17/14
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) – Environmental Protection Agency – 11/15/14