Earthy, Fishy, or Musty

These odors are harmless; but they can be detectable even when present in extremely small amounts, making them difficult to identify and eliminate. These types of odors are typically caused by decaying organic matter in the drain or in surface water sources. To figure out whether the source of the odor is the sink drain or the well, follow these steps:

  • Pour a little bit of water into a narrow glass
  • Step away from the sink
  • Swirl the water in the glass
  • Smell it

If the water has no odor, the source is most likely the sink drain. Odors from a sink drain can be eliminated by disinfecting, cleaning, and flushing the drain.

If the water does have an odor, you can use the diagram to the left to determine the source. These odors can typically be removed with the use of an activated carbon filter or automatic chlorination followed by an activated carbon filter.

Fishy odors in water may also indicate the presence of barium or cadmium in the water. Barium is a naturally occurring metal found in ores that contain mixtures of elements. The EPA regulates the amount of barium in water; so if you receive your water from a public water supply, it should already be treated for barium. Methods for removing barium include: ion exchange, lime softening, and/or electro dialysis.

Cadmium is also a naturally occurring metal and may enter the water supply via deteriorating galvanized plumbing, industrial waste, or fertilizer contamination. Cadmium may be removed by the following treatments: coagulation/filtration, ion exchange, lime softening, and/or reverse osmosis.

Barium and cadmium should both be removed by your local public water supplier, but it is still possible to find these metals in your water. Consult a water professional to help determine the best treatment for your home.