Joe Maller.com

Smelly water, East 14th St, NYC

Anyone else near 14th St and First Avenue in Manhattan notice their water smelling funny? The smell is very chemical, sort of like chlorine but sharper and more caustic. It’s not an overpowering odor, the water doesn’t taste bad and isn’t discolored. The odor tends to dissipate after the water has been left to settle for a short while. None of this is normal and I can’t recall anything like this happening before.

I first noticed the smell in our building’s water around 7pm, then again around 10pm at the 14th St Y across the street.  The smell was still in our water at 11pm and also when I wrote this at midnight. I went for a walk at about 11:30pm and thought I smelled the same smell in various pockets around the neighborhood.

I called 311 and ended up filing ticket 1656381 with the New York City DEP.

The easiest way to smell the odor is to fill a glass with tap water and quickly smell it. If you’ve got the same odor, you won’t have to  get very close. The smell does fade relatively quickly. Our water filters seem to have completely removed the smell.

If you smelled this too, please leave a comment including your location.


  • Patrick M

    Joe, I remember this happening in our town a couple of summers ago. The township had to make an additive adjustment to deal with an increase in naturally occuring algae that was in the water source. Warmer summer temps had brought upon an increase in the normal algae content. Is it a faint sulphur-like smell?

    It took a whole bunch of people noticing and complaining to get the township to come clean and let us know. Unfortunately, municipal water departments have this attitude of “we’re experienced pros, so just trust our judgement and be quiet”. If you are smelling something, then more than likely you are correct.

  • Andrea

    YES!! I smell it everywhere – my apt in Murray Hill, my friend’s apt on the UES, my office in Midtown-West and now even randomly in the street and delis. I describe it as a chalky halitosis smell with varying levels of pungent. Have you gotten any more info on what the cause is? I will also file a complaint with 311.

  • Andrea

    Just filed ticket 1658800 with the New York City DEP.

  • John

    I thought I was crazy.
    I have been smelling it too and no one else I’ve asked seems to really notice.
    I can’t stand it. It’s has a similar effect to when I smell fresh black top, but not as pungent. It really bothers me.

    I grew up here and the water has had the same taste and smell up until 2-3 weeks ago. I wonder what has changed.

  • John

    I wanted to add that I noticed in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and upstate NY. As time went on it seemed to dissapate faster. And I notice it from the cold tap more than the hot.

  • ed

    I’ve also noticed this (haven’t noticed over the last five days or so though). In both my apt in Queens, and at my office at midtown-east.

    My girlfriend thought i was crazy and i thought maybe i was too!

  • Andrea

    It’s back!? what the??

  • Joe

    Yeah, it’s totally back.

  • james

    thank god someone else smells it! it must be like broccoli or something; only certain people detect it. it was gone all summer, but now it’s back, worse than ever. every time i call 311 they act like i’m crazy… it smells just like the smell in garnier fructis shampoo, which i think is “grapefruit mercaptan”… but that’s just what my crude knowledge of chemistry and my sniffer are telling me…

  • Joe

    I did receive a call back from the Department of Environmental Protection a while back. They said they had been increases in the levels of chlorine in the water to combat increased biological contaminants. They then insisted that everything was safe, despite the smell.

    Chlorine does evaporate quickly, which is why the odor is strongest if you smell it right from the tap. If you wait a few minutes most of the gas will evaporate away. I notice it most in the shower, brushing my teeth and doing dishes.

    I did notice that after refilling my kids’ fishtank with tap water we had a remarkable algae bloom, the whole tank turned green in a few days. The previous refill was in winter and there was no algae.

    Also, nothing at all about this on the NYC DEP’s Drinking Water page

  • Russ

    I also thought I was imaging it, but now my wife has also noticed it. Similar to other posts, it is strong at first, more noticable with the cold water, and fades quickly. I have noticed it in my apartment (72nd & Broadway), in my office (Nassau & Beekman) and randomly elsewhere in the city when visiting friends.

    It went away for a while, but now it has returned.

    I went to the NYC DEP web site but I couln’t see where to post a ticket. I’d like to so if someone could respond to this post and let me know the link address I’d appreciate it.

  • Joe

    Just call 311 and ask for the DEP or Department of Environmental Protection.

  • Mark M

    My wife and I live in the west village, off Hudson street, and tonight we noticed a horrible smell from the water glasses. Washing them out and smelling it in a fresh glass of water (even Brita water) confirmed that it’s the water that smells. Distrubing. I’ll call 311 tomorrow.

  • Shauna

    I’ve noticed it too. What a disgusting smell. I’ve noticed it at my boyfriend’s house (100st & Columbus, at my house (24th st. and 8th Avenue), and around my neighborhood in Chelsea. I’ve been mentioning it to people I know, no one except my boyfriend seems to notice. Maybe it is the chlorine, I’m going to file a ticket today. I’m so glad I’m not the only one out there, we have to stick together and complain.

  • joe s

    Sounds very similar to what my wife and I noticed this morning in our apartment in Park Slope. The smell seems to only be in the cold water and goes away if it sits. We called the DEP and they said somebody would come test our water.

  • cassie

    goes away when it sits, but comes back when it is agitated. it might have something to do with gas in the water, which would explain why the hot water doesn’t smell. we live in a garden apartment and our upstairs landlords say they don’t smell it.

  • laura

    I too have noticed this odor come and go at least a few times every year since moving to New York. I would describe it as a blend of chlorine and something rotten (sulphur? – can’t quite put my finger on it). I live in the West Village near Bleecker and 7th Avenue, but also notice the stink where I work in Tribeca. During a typical recurrence I switch to bottled water for several weeks; unfortunately I’m also compelled to forgo my morning coffee (you can still smell and taste the stench – sorry Starbucks) which is absolute torture.

    Most people think I’m crazy when I bring it up, which baffles me because the smell is so obvious and offensive.

  • Jeremiah

    I smelled it too. It was bad for two weeks in May07. I live near Carmine and Bleeker. While the smell was offensive where I lived, I couldn’t smell any difference in my workplace in midtown at that time. Is it possible this is routine maintenance?

  • have been getting chlorine smell in one of my taps for a few years now – on occasion. very strong. have called the DEP trying to figure it out but it remains a mystery. old pre war building upper west side.

  • JIM

    You can usually smell something in the summer, as the reservoirs get lower more chlorine is added to the water. This is a different smell, tho, and it’s winter. Really weird.

  • enb

    smelly water again. chlorine + urine after you ate asparagus. First noticed it in november, now again yesterday. Suprised that it’s a mystery.

  • Ki

    My girlfriend and I have been smelling it wherever we use water in the 5 boroughs. Home, laundromat, work… everywhere. It’s a pretty offensive bitter, tar-like, chemical smell. Now that I’ve seen other people writing about this I’m going to start asking everyone I know who lives in the city if they’ve been smelling it. Calling 311 is definitely on my agenda today.

  • Andrea

    I filed a report with DEP back in July and just saw (in an old pile of mail) that they replied back with their water test findings (NOT in laymen’s terms) which concluded that there is nothing wrong with the water. I still smell it frequently, though not every time, which is disturbing in itself since I don’t know if the water they tested was the smelly water!!! Anyone else get a response from the DEP?

  • Aimee

    I live in Brooklyn and have been noticing it for a couple months now. But it seems even more strong in the last couple weeks. I also notice it in restaurants all over the city, at work in midtown, in the subway stations after they’ve been hosed down. I’m skeptical that it’s just chlorine because this doesn’t smell just like chlorine…there’s something else in there too.

  • Adam

    HA! I’m not crazy after all!

  • Yeah, it smells kind of like the bleach mixture in the subways, I’ll ask one of the workers what’s in that. It smells like chlorine/weed a bit to me. Must cost a fortune to pump all that chem into the water.

  • dizzle

    THANK GOD other people smell it too. I live in California and tavel to NYC frequently for business. I first noticed it over a year ago when I was staying in the Marriott Financial District. The water has a distinct acrid smell similar to tar or something burnt. I thought it had something to do with the Trade Center site right next door. I was so put off, that I was using bottled water for brushing my teeth.

    Anyhow, now I’m staying in SoHo and I smell the exact same thing. Thing that drive me crazy is that no one else I know smells it. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone or something. I mean, it’s not a subtle smell.

  • TOTALLY. Very strong Chlorine smell from the Tap, 2nd ave and 7th street. Horrible taste. What a shame, NYC use to have the best drinking water in the country, now it’s worse then LA! Something fishy is definitely going on, and this crap with the EPA and DEP saying “oh, they are fine levels” is bull. This is not fine. No one is suppose to drink pool water.

    I hope they can get their act together. It’s probably the water bottle companies putting pressure on them (in the form of large cash payoffs) so people will buy more Dasani or other coca cola products. Cynicism sucks//.

    R. Serrini

  • megan

    yes, i smell a chlorine chemical lemony fart smell too. so weird. makes me cringe when drinking. does calling 311 actually do anything? it looks like a lot of people called and it’s still bad.

  • brian

    i smell something like this from my soho tap, only the kitchen one though. not the shower or bathroom sink,odd, and it really bothers me.

  • Stacy

    I live in Phoenix Az. I smell chlorine! Just lately, I don’t believe that I ever noticed it before. I only smell it when I open my tap. Anybody else?

  • Jen

    Yes! I live in Chinatown and I smell it too. I don’t really smell alot of chlorine– more funky and organic, like there is a rat carcass somewhere in the system. It’s disgusting, having to shower in that!!!!!

  • Hey Joe,

    Well i am glad i am not losing my mind. I have recently even found myself asking friends or cl9ents if they noticed a change in the smell of the water, and all three said no. However, i have noticed it for about the last 9 months to a year or so. It definitely has a new funky odor, like a chemical.

    Perhaps it is time to call the Dept of Water and ask them.

    Joseph

  • Oh yes, and i forgot, i live all the way up in the North East Bronx, but it doesn’t really matter, as i think we all get our water from the same place up north………….croatan Damn…….isnt it?

  • @joseph I’m not sure, but while all the city’s water comes through the Croton watershed, there are three main aqueducts bringing that water to the five boroughs. I haven’t noticed much of an odor in lower Manhattan tap water right now, though I did smell it a few weeks back.

    Watershed maps

  • NIcole

    I live in Harlem and I’ve noticed it for days. I asked my boyfriend and he can’t smell it but whenver I first turn on the tap water in the sink/shower anywhere it smells.

  • rob

    East Village has it too right now

  • Darren

    I’ve been smelling this for the past few months now in Inwood, Manhattan and I smelled the same thing in Howard Beach, Queens. Clearly with this chain open for 3 years now, this is something that comes and goes. I will definitely look into getting a water filter.

  • the smell is back! (Stuy town – i also noticed it not quite as strong at my dads in bay shore, LI) and I too, noticed an algae bloom in our fish tank as of late. any idea why? is it from the increase in chlorine in the water – or are they increasing the chlorine due to algae in the water (which then means that the chlorine isn’t working too well).

  • pete brush

    glad to find your blogpost. i’ve been noticing the smell intermittantly for a while now (bklyn hghts/cobble hill nabe) and also have noticed that it dissapates if left in a bottle or if filtered.

    there’s been a lot of talk about hydraulic fracturing lately (to get nat gas out of ground in ny) and i sure hope it’s not related to that. i doubt it is because i believe nat gas co’s don’t yet have permission to extract in ny state.

    it’s probably just some chem. they’re adding to the water in intermittant doses to kill bacteria.

  • pete brush

    oh and it was back in my nabe as of 1/16 in the evening.

  • Kathy C.

    My water just began having the same smell this weekend (Whitestone, Queens) and has not gone away yet. Going to call 311 now.

  • Maribel R.

    Bronx, NY here. I smell it in my place, at a friend’s place in Astoria and also at work in midtown Manhattan :(

    • Jason

      Same here! Midtown, Astoria, Gramercy. GROSS!

  • Cecilia W.

    Thank heavens I found this ‘post’! I have been very upset lately about this smell, that only seem to come from the cold water tap where ever I go in the city. Lately I don’t even wanna shower in the smelly cold water so I feel like I’m boiling my self in the hot water just to avoid that horrid smell!
    I am from Sweden originally and have never smelled anything in that tap water. Of course it’s different since there is basically NO chlorine in that water what so ever, but the smell coming from the cold tap water now isn’t just chlorine, it smells toxic and not good to put inside your body at all!
    Why aren’t more people asking questions?! How can everyone just continue do drink such a disgusting smelling liquid?!
    I live on 18th street and Irving Pl. now but the smell is everywhere I go. If you really wanna smell it, put the cold water on in your tap and smell it directly as it running – if you can’t smell it, there must be something wrong with your nose..!

  • Paul

    I’ve been noticing the same thing for about two years now. No one else in my family can detect it, and I can’t talk about it with them because it reminds them too much of the first symptom of my father’s terminal brain cancer: smelling odd chemical odors. As others here say, the smell is strongest in cold water and dissipates quickly. I normally find our tap water (110th and Riverside) undrinkable in the wintertime unless I let it sit for a minute or so to outgas, but it crops up at other times of the year as well. (Like today.) Normally, the smell lasts for a few days, and when it’s at its strongest I get whiffs of it on the city streets–perhaps correlated with heavy rains. We spend our weekends out of the city, and I never smell the scent there, so I’m certain that it’s really something in our water here. I just wish I could identify the smell so I could report it properly. The description, above, of hot asphalt is the best one I’ve heard; I don’t know what the scent is, but it definitely smells like hydrocarbons.

  • Emilia Sclafani

    I live in Stuy town and have smelled it as well. I went out to eat last night at Pyros and smelled it on the table from the tap water. I also smelled it in the shower. Gross.

  • elyse

    i have been smelling odors in the water in my house, my boyfriends house, and now today in the nysportsclub… i seem to smell it everywhere now… im in queens n,y (woodside)

  • Joe

    Today might be the worst I can ever remember. Serious chlorine outgassing for the first few seconds. I’ve been smelling it all over the neighborhood too.

  • jeremy

    Ive been smelling this for the past 3-4 months. at first i thought it was just the building i live in near chinatown in the lower east side. now i smell it at friends houses, work, and resturaunts in manhattan and brooklyn. ive had other friends try to smell it and they dont smell anything strange.

    Ive live in new york for 8 years and have lived in 7 different apartments in those years. ive never smelled this before. as someone mentioned its a chlorine or bleach smell, and maybe a hint of sulfer.

    now im really curious why ive not been able to smell it before? the post and your comments go back years. why all of a sudden after 8 years am i just now smelling it?

    at least im not crazy or having a stroke.

  • Brian

    I’ve been smelling this for a long time. Live on UES.

  • aaron

    i just smelled the same thing in my water the last 2 days. i can only smell
    it immediately after filling a glass of water. What your problem ever corrected?

  • Moba

    I have noticed this every few months for the past 3-4 years. It smells like petroleum and is everywhere – in the shower, sinks, on the streets, etc for a few days then goes away. I also cannot taste anything different in the water, but refrain from drinking it for a week or so. Have no idea what is causing it.

    • EddieAcres

      ive been noticing this for a very looooong time also…are they slowly poisoning us in the city to help control overpopulation?…Hmmmm

  • John

    I smell it constantly. 32nd and Lex

  • Jackieallure

    I live in Brooklyn, and I just filled my water bottle and was disturbed to smell bleach. I don’t know how much I can trust whatever they are doing with the water to purify it, because they are obviously using chlorine or bleach to kill bacteria.

  • TN

    I’m smelling this for the last 2 days.   53rd & 9th ave. 

  • JRC

    I have had the same experience, usually late at night or first thing in the morning.  It’s exactly as you describe, much stronger than chlorine, almost a strong sulfur smell.  I’m on Chambers and River Terrace (battery Park/Tribeca)

  • JRC

    Not sure this is related but seems like it could be….

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/12-45pr.shtml

  • Carnegie Park

    Carnegie Park 94th and 3rd my shower water smells like sulfur! Imagine having to bathe in that kind of water and you come out clean and smelling like sulfur??? $3000 a month to smell like sulfur!

  • SZ

    Midwood in Brooklyn. I have this problem for months already.

  • HG

    Hi I get the same smell in the morning usually after about 2 AM, I live in Kingston Ontario. I have started drinking bottled water. That is all my son has drank from a very early age, never liked the city water. But then it has always had a real bad chlorine smell anyway.