Water Treatment System to Remove Sulphur
The element sulfur is commonly found near hot springs and volcanoes. It occurs in compounds, such as gypsum, iron pyrites and epsom salts. A versatile substance, sulfur is a component of gunpowder and phosphatic fertilizers. People use it for diverse purposes, such as bleaching dried fruits or as an insulator.
Sulfur exists in water in two forms. Sulfates are sulfur and oxygen compounds that occur naturally in some soil and rock formations that hold groundwater. The sulfur minerals dissolve in this water over time and enter drinking water supplies, according to the EPA. Hydrogen sulfide is a gas formed from the decomposition of organic matter, such as decaying plants, underground. It occurs naturally in deep or shallow wells, especially those located in areas near coal deposits or drilled into sandstone or shale. Sulfur-reducing bacteria, nonpathogenic microorganisms that use sulfur as an energy source, chemically alter sulfate into hydrogen sulfide in water.
Sulfur in household water supplies has a variety of effects, according to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Sulfates can build up in water pipes and give drinking water a bitter taste. They also cause a temporary laxative effect in some people, especially infants and travelers, according to the EPA. Hydrogen sulfide corrodes metals, such as copper, steel, brass and iron, and leaves black or yellow stains on bathroom and kitchen fixtures. It also affects the taste of cooked foods and discolors beverages, such as tea or coffee.
Federal regulations require public water suppliers to provide annual water quality reports that include information about the sulfate or hydrogen sulfide content of the water, according to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. However, private well owners must test their water supply for sulfate at their own expense. They must contact a commercial water testing laboratory for a sulfate test kit. People can usually detect hydrogen sulfide because it emits a rotten-egg odor.
The Ohio State University Extension Service identifies two treatment systems for removing hydrogen sulfide from water supplies. Chlorination systems release chlorine that reacts with hydrogen sulfide in the water to form an odorless, tasteless, yellow particle. A sand filter removes these particles. Aeration treatment systems inject oxygen into water systems. Oxygen dissolves the hydrogen sulfide into the sulfate form of sulfur. The hydrogen sulfide gas leaves an odor in the area near aeration systems as it is released from the water.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services warns that sulfur-reducing bacteria often contaminate water heaters and emit the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide when people turn the hot water on. If the water heater has a magnesium rod, it releases electrons that provide nourishment for these bacteria. Lowering the water heater's thermostat provides the warm water environment that allows these bacteria to thrive. The Ohio State University Extension Service recommends replacing the magnesium rod with an aluminum one and raising the water temperature to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria.
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