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Dwimmerlaik37
old water softener, new water heater, smelly water

Howdy! We've got a an old water softener, approx. 10 yrs old, to remove undesirables and clean our water from it's nasty brackish state around where we live, in a wetlands area on the Delaware River. We just replaced the water heater (electric) a year ago but within the past 6 months the water has gotten progressively funkier; smells heavily of eggs and chemicals and feels oily - I don't drink it anymore. I've flushed out the water heater several times and this seems to help for a while, but the nasty water inevitably returns. The last time I flushed the water heater, I noticed a white silt-like deposit forming on the ground at the end of the hose; little white granules. I'm guessing this is debris coming from the water softener and if so, the cathodes in the water heater are probably burnt out and corroded from salt, thus the horrible smelling water. What are possible solutions? Should we just suck it up and buy a new water softener (and new cathodes)? Thanks for your time!

goldhiller
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water

Since this smell and taste issue developed shortly after replacing the water heater...I'm inclined to think that the cause is that the WH is equipped with the standard magnesium anode rod. (Pretty sure the old WH no longer had a rod cause it got consumed over time) Sulfur-reducing bacteria in the supply water will feed off the magnesium and the warmer temps in the WH. Then their population grows until it reaches the point where you get exactly what you describe.

This is not *that* unusual of a situation. Around these parts with our water, all it usually takes is replacing the mag rod with an aluminum rod and all is well. The one link I will psot here says don't do this as it won't help. What I say to that is...it depends. They'll sugggest an aluminumm-zinc rod and that may well be what you need with your water supply.

Also, not only does replacing with a straight aluminum rod work here, but it does so even if softening the water....and that isn't supposed to work either.

In any event, I suspect this is the cause of your problem and it's pretty easy to swap rods...particularly on a heater this new as the threads aren't likely corroded much yet.

Can't say for sure what the granular-like material is you're seeing upon draining the WH. It *might* be softener media, but I've never seen that happen unless the softener is hooked up backwards. That will push the media out of the softener and into the plumbing lines. Anybody fool with the softener plumbing when installing this new WH?

You can sanitize your softener by adding a couple ounces of bleach (non-fraganced bleach, of course) in say a gallon of water to your brine tank and then setting it off to regenerate. Or use peroxide if you like. You might also have to run some water after the regen to get rid of any lingering odor/taste from the bleach. This treatment will kill off any bacteria in the media.

You could do the same if/when you replace the anode rod. Pour a ounce or two of bleach or peroxide into the water of the tank while you have the rod out. Leave it set for a few hours. Then drain and refill the tank.

If the above doesn't work to resolve the situation, then it's time to look deeper into what might be going on/other potential sources of the problem.

http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/Troubleshooting/stinky-water-in-hot-water-heaters.html

http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/

Dwimmerlaik37
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water

thank you! I'll try this out. hopefully it solves the problem.

Blue RidgeParkway
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water

do you have a water tap that doesn't go through the treatment system, for example a hose bib outside? Is the water just as funky, oily, sulfury and chemical smell there? if so i'd be looking upstream to the supply side for the problem, it could be coincidence timing of the water heater or the cause of the water heater's failure.

sparky672
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water
Dwimmerlaik37 wrote:

... We just replaced the water heater (electric) a year ago but within the past 6 months the water has gotten progressively funkier; ... The last time I flushed the water heater, I noticed a white silt-like deposit forming on the ground at the end of the hose; little white granules....

goldhiller wrote:

... Can't say for sure what the granular-like material is you're seeing upon draining the WH. ...

I have my own well, no water softener, and an electric WH. Water comes in from the well, goes through a whole-house sediment filter, and then straight into the water heater.

The white crusty sediment is created by the electric heating elements and minerals in the water. The crust forms on the elements and it grows until it reaches a certain thickness, then as the elements expand/contract it flakes off falling to the bottom of the tank. You can actually hear the heating elements as they'll make more noise when covered with this scale.

The original tank lasted for 30 years and was here for 20 years before I moved in. When it finally rusted out, I removed it and cut in into pieces... the anode rod of course was long gone but tank was more than 50% full of this white sediment. Far too much to have come from the anode rod. Since I don't have a water softener, it didn't come from there and since I have a sediment filter feeding the WH, crusty particles are not coming from the well.

When I periodically service my new tank, I remove both heating elements and the anode rod for inspection, then I drain and flush the sediment. The heating elements are covered in newly formed white crust yet the anode rod remains clean.

I do not offer a practical solution but I periodically drain my tank to remove this sediment.

http://www.foxservice.com/kb/article-70.html

I cannot speak for the effectiveness of the following "sediment control" kit, but I just found it on Google...

http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/OrderPages/PayPal/Sediment-Control-Flush-Kit-PP.html

goldhiller
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water
sparky672 wrote:

The white crusty sediment is created by the electric heating elements and minerals in the water.

Yup, that's very likely actually....and a good point. Was obviously having a bit of brain-fog cause that should have occurred to me, too. There are a couple houses around here that are on private wells which have very lime-laden water. When we changed out the lower element in one of those heaters, it was completely submerged in lime sludge. Now that is ALOT of lime accumulation...and the heater was only about two years old. Mounting the new element into the stuff would have meant a very short life expectancy....and it was impossible to get the stuff to flush out the tank drain. We attached a length of 3/4" PVC pipe to the shopvac hose and sucked out as much as we could get. Not ideal by any means, but the best we could do under the circumstances.

sparky672
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water
goldhiller wrote:

... We attached a length of 3/4" PVC pipe to the shopvac hose and sucked out as much as we could get. Not ideal by any means, but the best we could do under the circumstances.

I was actually considering doing the same with the shop vac. It doesn't take long to accumulate and last time very difficult to flush.

Blue RidgeParkway
Re: old water softener, new water heater, smelly water
Dwimmerlaik37 wrote:

Howdy! We've got a an old water softener, approx. 10 yrs old, to remove undesirables and clean our water from it's nasty brackish state around where we live, in a wetlands area on the Delaware River. We just replaced the water heater (electric) a year ago but within the past 6 months the water has gotten progressively funkier; smells heavily of eggs and chemicals and feels oily - I don't drink it anymore. I've flushed out the water heater several times and this seems to help for a while, but the nasty water inevitably returns. The last time I flushed the water heater, I noticed a white silt-like deposit forming on the ground at the end of the hose; little white granules. I'm guessing this is debris coming from the water softener and if so, the cathodes in the water heater are probably burnt out and corroded from salt, thus the horrible smelling water. What are possible solutions? Should we just suck it up and buy a new water softener (and new cathodes)? Thanks for your time!

Blue RidgeParkway wrote:

do you have a water tap that doesn't go through the treatment system, for example a hose bib outside? Is the water just as funky, oily, sulfury and chemical smell there? if so i'd be looking upstream to the supply side for the problem, it could be coincidence timing of the water heater or the cause of the water heater's failure.

recommended reading (click on links):

http://www.inspect-ny.com/water/Water_Pollution_03.htm

http://www.inspect-ny.com/water/WaterOdors.htm

and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on Water Softener Maintenance:

http://www.inspect-ny.com/septic/Water_Softener_Maintenance.htm
cleaning, but also investigate O rings/rubber gasket failures (slimy oily chemical smell).

oily feel to water and chemical smell/taste instead of guessing water quality test.

Original poster still hasn't indicated if water before softener has same complaint.

Says won't DRINK water, most drink COLD water. seems all this water heater discussion isn't focusing on the stated complaint of the original poster.

had forgot to mention previously question about outside hosebibs having vacuum breaks or anti-syphon protection, a hose laying in a puddle connected to an unchecked silcock or attached to one of those lawn chemical concentrate sprayer bottles, or similar bottles that attach to hose to clean siding, windows, etc. could be syphoning polluted water/chemicals into your system! you could run some dye tests during a recharge cycle too after you have completely cleaned and sanitized your water softener system.

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