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OT: Water that stinks

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  • #31
    The anode in mine is more corroded than I thought. I knocked the rod over this evening and about .050" of crud fell off exposing bare metal. At that rate the anode would have lasted perhaps another 2 to 3 months at most.

    So, my take on it is that somebody doesn't have a clue what happens with hard water. The old tank wasn't leaking and it is at least 30 years old. If it had an anode it is surely gone by now. Alkali water does not eat steel and does not transport Fe so the tank will not dissolve. Acid water does attack iron and that is what the anodic protection system is meant to deal with. Cities tend to have acid water. The people who design these thing tend to live in cities. City people tend to be absolutely clueless about what happens outside a city. They think the entire planet looks like downtown. Any place that doesn't is some sort of theme park.

    As it happens you can replace the magnesium rod with aluminum if you insist on having anodic protection. It will not generate H2S.

    Also, whether it will stink or not depends on whether your water contains sulphates. Not all hard water does.
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    • #32
      Evan, your success MAY be transitory, and I will attempt to explain. It is a bit involved, so please bear with me. In most hard water containing sulphates, there occurs also an organism: desuphovibrio desuphuricans. It is an obligate anerobe and therefore not very active. It is the basis for MOST of the "rotten egg" complaints in domestic water systems. It tends to thrive in the bottom of hot water tanks, where it reduces suphate ion and produces H2S, which reacts with water to form suphurOUS acid, which attacks most metal surfaces, particularly iron. When tanks are manufactured, they are "glass lined" by firing a vitrious frit in an oven. this process produces a NEARLY impervious coating. The process does leave pinholes, and the anode is installed in the tank to provide protection to the pinholes which, in a perfect world, it would do for years. Enter the plumber. The CORRECT way to hook up a water tank, is to install insulbushings, (originally nylon, ) between the copper pipe and the steel tank to prevent galvanic attack on the tank threads. The plumber had either never heard of insulbushings or did not believe in them and it was faster to just use a 3/4x1/2 galvanized bushing or a 3/4x 3/4 NPTx solder fitting. Either of these he installed with a good -sized pipe wrench, which in most cases crazed the glass lining a little bit--but not to worry, the anode will protect it. Remember that you used a 3-foot cheater bar?
      Once the organism goes to work, it rapidly destroys the anode, and then begins on the tank. This can be demonstrated by draining some water from the bottom of the tank--it will run black from iron suphide particles. The tank is doomed, it is only a matter of time.
      Ontario Hydro paid for extensive research into this particular problem back in the '60s. Municipal Utilities were big time renters of hot water tanks, and "smelly water" complaints caused them no end of grief. They found two things: 1) Water softeners caused the total and rapid consuption of the anodes and that they did no good. Their cure was to provide stone-lined rental tanks to people with water softeners. 2) there was NO evidence that the anode contributed to the production of H2S. For it to happen, the magnesium would have to reduce the sulphate ion, and in the environment within a domestic hot water tank there was not enough energy to drive the reaction.
      There was one other circumstance that guaranteed that this was not a problem-Everdur hot water tanks-but most people could not/would not afford them.
      If you have permanently solved your problem, GREAT. If it recurs, I recommend that you install an ultraviolet sterilizer on your well supply,assuming that you have virtually no iron in your supply. If you do have iron present then, as we say in Quebec, "that is another pair of sleeves!"
      Duffy, Gatineau, Quebec


      • #33
        there was NO evidence that the anode contributed to the production of H2S. For it to happen, the magnesium would have to reduce the sulphate ion, and in the environment within a domestic hot water tank there was not enough energy to drive the reaction.
        I just typed a long reply adressing various of your points. I accidentally hit ctrl-n and deleted it so here is the short version.

        The primary diagnostic is that the smell only occurs in the hot water. If bacteria from the well are responsible then it will also occur when the cold water is heated.

        From a report by:


        Public Health Service

        Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

        Hydrogen sulfide may occur naturally in well water, and can be formed in hot water heaters, giving household hot tap water an unpleasant odor. Formation of hydrogen sulfide can occur by the reduction of sulfates in the water by sulfur bacteria, which can thrive in the warm environment of the hot water heater, or by reaction with the magnesium anode in the hot water heater tank (MDH 2004).

        There is no biological activity in our well water. I have done bacterial assays and have found nothing. I am well accquainted with the appropriate techniques. We live at the top of a hill in a sparsely populated area and our well is 350 feet deep. Bacterial contamination is very unlikely and the evidence does not support it.

        The tank is doomed, it is only a matter of time.
        Well, yes. The Earth is doomed too and it's only a matter of time.

        The old tank was about 30 years old as is the pressure tank. Neither leak.
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        • #34
          Can't comment on stink or tank rot, but I've seen the result of hard well water on (in) a water heater. Our last house was in rural New Jersey and I had the lower element in our electric water heater go open. When I removed it I found the tank had 12 inches of mineral chips on the bottom, the minerals would build up on the heating elements until they were about .062 inch thick or so, then crack and fall off. Years of this happening had built up quite a deposit in the bottom of the tank. The bottom element was overheating from being buried in the stuff. I got quite a bit of it to flush out of the element hole, but that didn't solve the problem in the long run. Just one of the little things we had to put up with to live there.



          • #35
            Evan - you will loose your warranty. As far as removing the rod, use an impact wrench, air or electric. No need to make a new plug. Just cut off the rod where it connects to the plug and use the top part as your new plug.


            • #36
              As for your next tank lasting 30 years...don't count on it. We live in a 10 year old house and I just had my water heater start leaking a month or so ago. It was a bad month for appliances in the Carpenter houshold, but I won't bore you with that. In any case, because of its location, it was one of the high-efficiency, power vented models and cost way too much to replace. I hope the next one lasts longer, but I am not holding my breath. In short, if a coating on the surface of the inside of the heater were adequate, then the porcelain coating that they come with should make them last forever. Its inert and more importantly is glazed and far less porus. Its not, however, perfect.

              We live in Limestone Township here in Illinois, with lots of limestone in the ground and our water is *very* hard. Don't count on that preventing galvanic action. They make an aluminum anode rod that supposedly does not have the same problems with the H2S gas and the bacterium that create it.


              Paul Carpenter
              Mapleton, IL


              • #37
                Not all hard water is the same. How much corrosion is or is not caused very much depends on what is in the water. Our water has dissolved iron in it so there is little chance it will attack the iron in the tank. The water is already loaded with iron ions.

                This tank appears to have a plastic liner rather than ceramic. Depending on how that is implemented it could last a very long time.
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                • #38
                  On the subject of installing water heaters, this particular idiot got the heater in place and then began removing the plastic thread protectors on the inlet and outlet nipples. Except those are not protectors! Yup - I screwed one up completely and had to cut it off flush. The tank was too tall for me to see inside the nipple, and I'm so used to such things coming with protectors, and the previous one had none, so...

                  You live, you learn.


                  • #39
                    I tried to read through all of this but have to work today --- So, my Bro put in his new tank and has a problem, the water doesnt stink BUT every time he comes home and uses the hot water for the first time in hours he get a big blast of air out of the H.W. faucet -------- Im thinking microbe's ? I guess it could be chemical --- his old heater didnt do this -- they are both electric...


                    • #40
                      Same as what happened with our tank. Every time it sat for a while it would accumulate a large amount of gas from the corrosion. If it is corroding because of a different element in the water it won't stink but will still evolve gasses.

                      BTW, the problem is still gone with our tank.
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                      • #41
                        My new electric water isn't gassing to the point of belching but the hot water does have a lot of gas in it. It's cloudy when it comes out of the tank and after a few moments that dissipates in the basin. That is new with the new heater.