My Water Tastes Like Petrol: What Could Be The Cause? (Read My Experience)

Recently I had this exact issue.  I came back from a two-week camping trip to find that our water had a chemical taste that could only be described as kerosene or petroleum.

Boy with bad tasting water

I’m no water corp employee, though if it helps, read this article by which I go over the problem I had and what I did to remove the taste of petrol from our drinking water.

How we discovered the taste of petrol in our water

When we came back from a two-week camping trip and my son grabbed a drink out of the kitchen tap, after spitting it out the first thing I heard was…. “Dad our tap water tastes weird, there is something wrong with the water!”.  After hearing this I stopped unpacking the camping gear and headed in to see what he was talking about.

Well, before even tasting the water there was a distinct smell of petrol or kerosene coming from the water running out of the tap.  I then took a sip of the glass my son was holding and had to spit the water out as he was right… all I could taste was petrol in the water:/

What steps we took to remove the petrol taste from our water

When we discovered the taste of petrol in our drinking water the first thing we did was to call the local water corporation.  After lodging a water quality issue with their water quality officer he asked a few questions and explained a number of potential causes.

One of the questions he asked was whether the soil near the water meter has had any chemicals spilled near it, such as degreaser, petrol (gasoline), paint or any other chemical-based mixture.  Initially, I answered no, though this was until I remembered that I had put an old lawn mower jerry can of fuel ready for disposal near the bin that was in the vicinity of the water meter.

After getting off the phone I thought I would check and to my surprise, the release value of the jerry can wasn’t tightened properly and at least half of the can had leaked into the garden bed near the water meter.  I proceeded to check around the area and the soil near the water metre had a smell of petrol.

After mentioning this to the water corporation he stated that the taste and smell of petrol in our drinking water can come from fuel spilled on the ground nearby.  I asked how this can be and he explained that such chemicals can soak into the ground and then seep into your plastic water pipes which results in a contaminated drinking water supply.

Surely this can’t be? To be honest, I didn’t really believe this could be the cause so I took the following steps to validate this.

1. Got the water tested at the meter

To help validate this I got a plumber to disconnect our home’s water pipe from the metre.  Once disconnected, I opened the water metre tap slightly and filled a glass of water to taste the water.  To my surprise, the water coming out of the metre was perfectly fine, which confirmed it was an issue between the water metre to my house.

2. Dug down to find the pipe

located pvc water pipe into house
Dug down to located the plastic water pipe

The next check I did was to get the plumber to dig down and find the plastic pipe.  As he was digging down we could smell the petrol in the soil and not long after we located the plastic water supply pipe from the meter to the house.

After smelling the petrol from the soil and seeing that we had plastic pipes and not copper I started to believe that this could actually be the cause.  With this in mind, I decided to progress with the next steps of removing the contaminating soil and then replacing the pipe.

3. Removal of contaminated soil

contaminated plastic pipe
The contaminated pipe exposed

Once I decided on this approach, I then started digging a much wider channel around the main pipe to be replaced.  As we were in a rush, I had nowhere to put the contaminated soil so I grabbed a bunch of cheap buckets from Bunnings and filled them up.

buckets of sand
Contaminated soil removed

4. Replaced plastic pipe with copper

New copper water pipe inserted
A new copper water pipe replacing old plastic pipe

Although more expensive, after being advised that copper is more resilient than plastic when it comes to chemical contamination I opted to replace the pipe with copper.  The plumber proceeded to do so and then insulated the line in accordance with regulations.

5. Flushed and tested the water

After the contaminated pipe was cut out and a new pipe installed, we then opened up every tap in the house and flushed all the pipes for 5 minutes.  After flushing the pipes I tested the water and the petrol smell and taste were gone! It worked and as you can imagine the family were happy again:)

6. Plastic sheeting for additional prevention

filling trench for water pipe
Plastic sheeting added around the pipe

To ensure this wouldn’t happen again we then dug out wider and added a protection of plastic sheeting from bunnings around the pipe which was then backfilled with fresh soil from another section of our yard. 

sand entered back over water pipe
Fresh soil was added around the pipe

Once installed, we then continued to remove all soil between the plastic sheet and the wall ensuring all contaminated soil was removed and disposed of.

Final thoughts

I hope you found this article of use.  To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to invest time in writing about my experience though when this occurred after researching “what to do if my water tastes of petrol” I found little to no helpful information.  

Hence, with this in mind, I thought by sharing my experience that other fellow Aussies that have a similar issue can read through to realise that it can happen and more to the point that it is possible to resolve.

Disclaimer: As always please don’t see this as advice as I’m no expert when it comes to troubleshooting water quality issues.  Hence, if this does happen and you suspect you may have a similar scenario then first call your local water authority and discuss it with your local plumber before taking any action.

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