Wednesday, June 4, 2014

it stinks!

A few months ago, I visited an area with very stinky tap water (stinky groundwater) from naturally-occurring hydrogen sulfide, which produces a rotten-egg odor. It reminded me of other times I've encountered stinky groundwater. In order of increasing offensiveness:

1. Sulfurous water doesn't smell great, but it doesn't bother me all that much.

2. Monitoring wells set a tad too close to a septic tank can be... unpleasant.

3. I've worked at former tanneries, and monitoring wells screened in essentially a pile of carcasses produce a particularly rancid stench.

4. The worst, by far, was a site of a large ethanol spill. It was an industrial staging area which had quite a lot of old hydrocarbon contamination. The site had a bunch of hydrocarbon-eating microbes, and when the ethanol hit that contaminated groundwater, the bugs went bonkers. All good, right? Well, what those bugs produced was butyric acid, at an eye-watering concentration (literally). It smelled overwhelmingly of stale beer vomit, which then permeated everything. The car we were driving. Our bag of trash (from our gloves). Our clothing. That smell followed our sample bottleware through the hallways of our office and lingered for ages.

If you wear the proper protective gear, the smell of what you've been playing with all day doesn't usually permeate your skin/clothing. But some stinky water can be more... persistent. There's nothing quite coming home from work smelling like a frat party. A bad frat party.

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