The nose knows

Surely, I have always been able to recall smells that remind me of events from long ago. But after years of dealing with chemicals and sniffing to evaluate wine, I seem to have developed another sense of smell, the one that acutely reacts to what others don’t seem to smell.

Where we live, we are not connected to a municipal water system. Ours is well water, and around here, the well water often provides quite a blast of sulfurous aromas, so much so that we had to have a complete water filtering system installed that not only removes the sulfurous odor but also the iron and other mineral deposits that plague the water supply.

Our water system provides two outlets for us: one is for washing and the other, on a reverse osmosis filter, is for drinking. The water source for washing is cleansed with chlorine and some large particle filters and then passed through salt to ostensibly take out the chlorine. It doesn’t always work so well but I seem to be the only one who thinks so.

Sometimes, as happened recently, I can detect sulfurous odors in the shower or from the faucet. When that happens it means to me that something is wrong with the system. The problem is that when the service guy arrives to fix what’s wrong, he doesn’t smell the sulfurous odor and thinks that I am nuts. It doesn’t help my cause when my wife can’t smell it either. But I detect it and I don’t care what others say.

Last week I had to call the water company to complain once again about detecting sulfurous odors. The fellow who came out to check things asked me what I do for a living. When I told him his eyebrows went up and he began to jump up and down.

When I asked him what was the matter he said that he just knew that my complaint had to do with my profession. He said they have a customer nearby who is a chemist and who seems also to detect odors in his water that none of the service people can detect.

All well and good, but I wanted to know what he was going to do to fix the problem. His solution was to adjust the chlorine level up a little.

I told him that I hope it doesn’t cause me to smell chlorine because I hate the smell of chlorine in water; when not overpowering and at low levels, it smells like mildew to me. He said that he wasn’t beefing it up so much that it would become a problem.

The next morning, as I splashed my face to wake up I smelled chlorine in the water. My wife did not.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2011. All rights reserved.

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