Case Study 11 | Natural Gas Region / Black Water - Sulfur Smell


Tunkhannock, PA


Natural Gas Investigation- Black Water - Sulfur Smell

Well Water - Black with Strong Sulfur Smell,
Trailer # 1 (Left) and Trailer # 2 (Right)

Level 1 Observational Testing / Water Issues

1. The homeowner complained that the water came out of the faucet black with a strong sulfur odor.

2. They said natural gas and "Fracking" was happening within a mile of their well and there was past drilling about 3000 feet away.

3. They had no Baseline Testing

4. We visited the site which had two trailers supplied with well water.

5. We ran the water directly from the well - the water was clear, but there was a sulfur odor. LEL (Lower Explosion Limit - 0%)

6. We went into Trailer #1 - the water had a strong sulfur odor and a very slight tint.

7. Went into Trailer # 2 - the water had a strong sulfur odor and was very slightly discolored. Trailer # 2 is used intermittently.

8. We asked the homeowner where the water was "BAD" and were told: the second bathroom in Trailer # 2.

9. We removed the strainer from the "BAD Spigot". A large mass of slime came out of the faucet tap.

10. We checked the toilet tanks - they were slimy and black and red.

11. The toilets were coated with a red slime.

12. There were copper staining and slime deposits where the water drips into the sink

To do your own Level 1 Observational Test check out our Self Test Web App.

Evaluation & Inspection
Level 2 and Level 3 Testing

1. We went to this bathroom and sampled the black water.

2. We tested all water in the field for pH, conductivity, and temperature. The conductivity was low and the pH was less than 6.0.

Testing Results

1. No salt problem.

2. No Methane problem.

3. Total Coliform - High.

4. E. coli. - Negative.

5. Standard Plate Count - well over 10,000 colonies per ml.

6. Nuisance Bacteria - Iron, Slime, and Sulfur Bacteria present - 60,000+ colonies per ml.

Suspected Problem

1. Nuisance bacteria in the well.

2. Because of intermittent use of Trailer # 2, there was excessive bacterial regrowth in the piping of the building.

3. We thought that  the problem was manganese, but the laboratory testing indicated that the particles were iron and sulfur or iron sulfide. When the particles were oxidized, they turned RED and Yellowish Brown. (Something New Every Day!)


1. Did It Work? - Yes - The well was Shock Disinfected TWICE!

2. We recommended annual water testing and flushing of the system.

3. No formal water treatment system was needed, JUST Maintenance!

4. We dropped off a copy of the KnowYourH2O and Keystone Clean Water Team's Educational Guide to Water Quality.

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