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Water Quality FAQ Taste & Odor of Water

I just moved to Springfield, why does the water taste different?

If you recently moved to the SUB service area, your new water may taste different to you. Just as various brands of bottled water taste different due to the varying minerals they contain, the taste of domestic drinking water also varies with its source(s). Over time, you will become accustomed to its taste. Be assured that the drinking water SUB provides meets or surpasses all state and federal drinking water standards.

Why does my water smell like chlorine?

We’re required to add very small and safe amounts of chlorine to your water to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This may mean that you encounter chlorine-type tastes and odors from time to time. We carefully monitor the levels that we add to make sure your water is always safe to drink and use. Heating water or increases in outside temperature can make the chlorine odor more noticeable, so you may notice the odor more when you run a bath or take a shower. Even though the odor may be stronger when water is warmed up, it’s still perfectly safe to use.

Some customers are more sensitive to the smell of chlorine than others. However, the odor or taste of chlorinated water should never be overwhelming.

There are 2 common causes for a chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, or medicinal odor or taste in the water: the chlorine that we add to the water or the interaction of that chlorine with a build-up of organic material in your plumbing system. It is helpful to identify the source in finding a solution.

Here are 2 characteristics of a public water supply related odor:

  • The odor occurs at all the water fixtures on the property
  • The odor persists no matter how long the water is run

Here are 2 characteristics of a plumbing related odor:

  • The odor occurs in only one or several, but not all, of the water fixtures on the property
  • The odor is not noticeable after running the water for a few minutes

If you are not certain of the source, check the water supply to the property. To check the water supply, take a clean glass and go to the water faucet (hose bib) at the front of the property closest to the water meter at the street (typically the water meter is in front of the home). Turn the water on wide-open and run it for a full 2 minutes. Check the time; 2 minutes is a long time. After 2 minutes, disconnect the water hose if there is one attached and sample the water. 

If the odor seems overpowering or bleachy after running this test, contact us at (541) 726-2396. If the water is much better at the front faucet than at the fixtures on the property, flushing your plumbing is recommended.

Improving water quality is as simple as flushing your water pipes to remove the accumulation of organic material. This procedure is outlined in the following steps.

  1. Remove the screens (called aerators) from the ends of the indoor faucets and run all of the faucets wide-open and simultaneously for 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Flush the toilets 2 or 3 times each while the faucets are running. Running all the water faucets and toilets simultaneously generates a large flow of water through the pipes and will generally dislodge any build-up of organic material that is causing the taste and odor problem. Removing the aerators before flushing the plumbing will prevent anything dislodged by flushing from accumulating on the screens.
  3. After 3 to 5 minutes of flushing, turn off the water faucets, clean the aerators, and reinstall the aerators on the ends of the faucets.
How can I reduce or eliminate the smell of chlorine in my water?

If you find chlorine taste in the water objectionable, fill a container with water and store it in the refrigerator for drinking. Leave the cap slightly loose and most of the chlorine smell should dissipate.

You can also use a hand-held pitcher with an activated carbon filter to remove chlorine or install a point-of-use water treatment device on a faucet for your cooking and drinking water. Be certain that the device has been tested by an independent organization for aesthetic (non-health) use. ANSI/NSF Standard 42 establishes minimum requirements for materials, design and construction, and performance of drinking water devices that reduce specific aesthetic-related contaminants in public or private water supplies. These products usually contain activated carbon that can remove many chemicals that affect taste and odor, including chlorine.

Point of use devices contain filter cartridges that must be changed out periodically. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to replace the cartridges. If you plan to store water from these devices, treat the water as a food product, and use clean, airtight containers and refrigerate, as the water is no longer protected from bacteriological contamination.

How do I know if the odor of the water is from my own plumbing or from the public water supply?

If the water supply is causing the odor, you will experience the odor at every water faucet and it will be persistent. If the source of the odor is in your plumbing, you will experience the odor in only one or several, but not all, of the faucets. If the problem goes away after running the water for a few minutes, the cause is somewhere in your plumbing. If your plumbing is the source of the odor, you can try flushing the plumbing system or you can consult a licensed plumber. Contact SUB at (541) 726-2396 if you suspect the public water supply. 

When you detect an odor in your tap water, we recommend that you perform what we call a glass test at the faucet where you detect the odor.

  • Run the cold water tap for at least 30 seconds
  • Get a clean glass, then fill and rinse twice with cold tap water
  • Fill the glass and turn off the faucet
  • Step away from the sink (This eliminates the possibility of mistaking odors from your drain for odors in your water)
  • Smell the water in the glass and characterize the odor, if any
I just had my plumbing worked on. Why does my water have a different taste?

New or modified plumbing can give your water an unusual taste or odor. This is caused when traces of copper and other materials come into contact with your water. This will usually improve with time as a thin protective layer of natural scale forms on the new plumbing, sealing the copper.

Tap or stopcock washer rubber causes an odd taste or odor, particularly if taps or stopcocks are new, old, or haven’t been used for some time. You will usually only notice the odor or taste when you use the particular tap causing the problem (unless it’s the stopcock, which will affect every tap). You may need to replace the washer, if the washer has been damaged because of worn tap seating, you will need to replace the tap seating too.
Flexible braided metal hoses are often used in modern plumbing, usually to make connections under the sink. The rubber or plastic lining inside them can sometimes cause an antiseptic taste. If the flexible hose is part of your drinking water plumbing, you may need to ask a plumber to replace the hose with an alternative type of hose that does not contain rubber.

Why does my water have a metallic or bitter taste?

Water with a metallic or bitter taste is most likely a sign of corrosion in older galvanized iron and copper pipe plumbing in your home. A metallic or bitter taste is most likely to occur first thing in the morning or after extended periods of no water use. If you experience a metallic or bitter taste in your water, turn your tap on full flow for at least 30 seconds to flush out the stagnant water. The water will be replaced with fresh water from SUB’s water supply.

Occasionally glasses or cups that have been through a dishwasher may retain traces of detergents. As a test, try rinsing the glass or cup with tap water and see whether the taste is still there. If so, adjust the settings on your dishwasher and use no more than the recommended amount of detergent and rinse-aid.

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs or sewage?

Sometimes customers report that their tap water smells septic, swampy, moldy, or like sewage, sewer gas, sulfur, or rotten eggs. These odors are often caused by gases forming in the household drain. These gases are formed by bacteria that live on food, soap, hair, and other organic matter in the drain. These gases are heavier than air and remain in the drain until the water is turned on. As the water runs down the drain, the gases are expelled into the atmosphere around the sink. It is natural to associate these odors with the water because they are observed only when the water is turned on. In this case, the odor is not in the water, it is simply the water pushing the gas out of the drain. This can be verified by taking a glass of water from the tap and walking away to another area to smell the glass of water.

Cold Water: If the odor is not evident in the glass, but is noticeable when you are standing at the sink with the cold water is running, then the odor is most likely coming from the drain. This problem is easily solved by filling the sink with hot water, adding a few ounces of chlorine bleach, and allowing the hot chlorinated water to flush and disinfect the drain. It is also good practice to periodically remove and clean the sink stopper. The garbage disposal in the kitchen sink can be cleaned in a similar manner.

Hot Water: If you find these odors in your hot water, there are 2 probable causes:

  • Bacteria may be residing in the water heater. Disinfecting the water heater may eliminate this odor. Heat disinfection is used to eliminate the bacteria. If you do not feel comfortable doing this work yourself, hire a licensed plumber to do it for you.
  • The water heater anode may need to be replaced. If experienced, inspect the anode yourself; otherwise, call a plumber.
Why do my ice cubes make my water taste funny?

You may notice water from your faucets tastes wonderful, but the water from the dispenser in your refrigerator and the ice cubes taste dirty. The taste may be the result of buildup in the automatic icemaker, the water dispenser, and the hoses leading from your water source to the refrigerator.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the operation and maintenance of your refrigerator to clean those parts and replace them and any filters as necessary.

Why does my water have a swampy, fishy, earthy, musty, moldy, or grassy odor?

These odors in your water may come from natural organic matter found in river water. Natural organic matter from river water can sometimes produce a swampy or musty taste and odor during the summer and fall months. This organic matter will not harm you at all, and the water is safe for you to drink.

The more likely cause of these smells is hair, soap, and food waste that accumulates over time on the walls of a sink drain. Bacteria can grow on these deposits. As the bacteria grow and multiply, they produce gases that can smell musty or moldy. These gases accumulate in the drain until the water is turned on. As the water runs down the drain, the gases are expelled into the air around the sink. It is natural to assume the bad odor is coming from the water because the smell is noticeable only when the water is on. However there is nothing wrong with the water, but the drain may need to be disinfected.

Why does my water smell and/or taste like gasoline, diesel, kerosene, paint thinner, or oil?

If there is a gasoline or diesel taste and/or odor to the water from your kitchen tap please contact SUB right away. Please do not drink the water or use it for cooking purposes until you have sought advice from your water supplier.

Oily odors or tastes are usually caused because an oil, such as gas, diesel, kerosene, or paint thinners, has been spilled and has leached into your water supply pipe. If fuel or oil is spilled around, or near to, any underground water pipes, it’s important that they are cleaned up immediately so they don’t contaminate the water. Replacing pipelines can be expensive, so cleaning up the spills before they’re allowed to enter the pipeline can help to minimize costs.

Look for fuel or oil spillages on the driveway or in front of the house i.e. a car or motorcycle leaking oil. These are the most common cause of water contamination as they can get through a plastic service pipe and affect the quality of your water supply.