We have gotten a number of requests for information on iron bacteria recently. Most notably, people have asked us what ‘clues’ to look for to determine if they should test for iron bacteria
Bad Taste and Foul Odor — Iron bacteria often produce nasty tastes and odors commonly reported as: “smells swampy,” “has an oily or petroleum like smell,” “smells remotely like cut cucumber,” “sewer smell” “stinks like rotten vegetation,” or “stale and musty.”
Often times the bad tastes and odors will seem noticeably stronger after a long period where the water has not run.
Note: If you smell a “rotten egg” smell, this odor most likely comes from something other than iron bacteria. You may want to test, instead, for dissolved hydrogen sulfide in your water.
Discoloration — Iron bacteria have a knack for leaving orange, brown, red or slightly yellow stains on your normally pristine white fixtures and may even cause water in toilets and toilet tanks to become discolored.
Some folks (who have lots of iron bacteria in their water) have even reported seeing rainbow-colored oily residues on surfaces exposed to their water.
Slimy Red Deposits — Should you happen to notice a sticky slime with a rust-like color — or possibly orange, brown, red, slightly yellow or even gray color — in your toilet tank, iron bacteria may have made their home in your water supply.
So… Those Simple ‘Tests’ Always Work?
Not even in a fairytale world, pal! Each of the ‘signs’ and ‘indicators’ of iron bacteria listed above could also come from drinking water contaminants such as ferrous iron, sulfate, hydrogen sulfide, manganese and/or other biological organisms frequently found in water supplies such as sulfur bacteria.
So… How Can I Know for Sure That I’ve Got Iron Bacteria?
No method other than having your water tested by a certified water testing laboratory (such as National Testing Laboratories) will tell you for certain whether or not you have iron bacteria in your water.