Bulletin Board

Identifying a well water odor source and treating flowback water


On May 6, 2015, Bulletin Board user thomaseckhoff posted this question, "The (well) water from my kitchen sink has a fuel oil odor. I had it tested for VOCs by a certified lab, [and] all protocols were followed. The report came back not detec ted (ND) for all constituents. Does anyone have any suggestions?"


Several respondents’ advice is below:

I remember reading this (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/DrinkingWater/documents/symptoms/SmellsFuelOil.pdf) a while back. I would have an iron bacteria test done if you haven't already. Also if you have a test done and get the results, "200" is considered low. Anything below that should not be an issue.

Is this a "new" house? Did the well sit idle for a while? Are you noticing this smell in all the taps?

— not_an_expert, May 8, 2015


I have seen this exact issue on several occasions. It can be a bit challenging to find the problem, but it is fixable. First, I would check for iron, manganese and heterotrophic plate count (HPC). That will not always give the full answer but would lead in the right direction. If the HPC is high, I would then dig deeper and check [for] iron-related bacteria and sulfate-reducing bacteria. They could also be tested on the first test if you want to save time. 

All of the above seem to have potential of being present in a case like this but not always. 

Likely, it will require chlorine injection, proper retention time and, lastly, follow with a carbon filter. The carbon filter I have found to have beneficial results in this case not only for chlorine removal, but [it] also seems to help with [removing] the smell completely. Some people also try approaching this with carbon only. That should also fix the problem, but might have reduced life.

— SamLapp, May 8, 2015


It is an older house. Yes, [the] smell is noticed from all internal faucets. I will follow up on the bacteria testing. Many thanks.

— thomaseckhoff, May 8, 2015


You can also look for evidence of iron and/or sulfate-reducing bacteria in the back of your toilet tank. Iron bacteria [are] usually reddish brown in color and sulfate is more of a black color.  If you see anything growing, this would be a good indication that you have a problem. You can then test to see how significant the problem is.

— mariannemetz, May 11, 2015


Removing sodium from hydraulic fracturing flowback

On Feb. 23, 2015, Laurence DAlberti asked about his customer who is engaged in hydraulic fracturing [fracking] operations: My customer is fracking oil and gas deposits in Alberta, Canada. Water is used to [fracture] the rock to release trapped oil and gas. The spent fracking waters are collected, and they want to reuse them. They [contact lime], so sodium levels are around 55,000 parts per million.

What is the best way to remove sodium from a five percent brine solution?




The ionic and organic content of typical flowback water makes it difficult to treat. [A] five percent brine is stronger than seawater, so the only way to remove sodium at that level is high-pressure reverse osmosis or evaporation. Both are expensive and maintenance/operationally expensive on this type [of] application. This is why most well drillers collect flowback water, filter it and try to reuse it on the next [fracking] job. 

— dfrench


Can you help these users? Do you need input on a water quality issue? Visit the Water Technology Bulletin Board and join our community.


Other digital resources

Network with your peers on our social media outlets. Our social strategy is to help link and inform the water industry.

Join our 8,833 Twitter followers. — Twitter.com/WaterTechOnline

Become one of 1,435 who like our Facebook page. — Facebook.com/WaterTechnology

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn along with our 306 connections. — LinkedIn.com, search Water Technology


Want to be a featured Twitter follower in WaterTech e-News Daily? Follow us today and reach out to Maria Woodie, mwoodie@watertechonline.com to be included in a future issue.

More in Technology Guide