Since moving to the Poconos I have been in a happy camper – as anyone that has read any other posts here can attest to. Everything went so well I haven’t had time to complain about anything. Well, this post is a break in that pattern. I seriously never thought that it would be so frustrating and complicated to get satisfactory results from a service provider that has been around for over 30 years.
Our house sits in a private street that is not directly connected to the town’s public water system, so our only water source is an underground well. We were a bit worried about it before we bought the property, but we had the water tested and the results were negative for any harmful chemicals and organisms. It did however have a high level of hydrogen sulfide gas, which has a distinctive rotten egg smell, but at a concentration where it is mostly harmless. To release the gas the water has to sit still for a while or go through a filter.
The house had a carbon-based filtration system that took care of that smell, but sometime during last summer that old-fashioned filter began to malfunction. At first we tried using a Brita Water Pitcher as an extra layer of filtration for the drinking and cooking water. This type of filter is intended to capture living organisms and toxins, but it also did an excellent job at clearing the hydrogen sulfide. Eventually the carbon filter tank went completely bust so we needed another house-wide solution.
Biting the Bait
One day I saw a free water testing kit in our local Home Depot and decided it was worth a try. I sent a couple samples from different spots in the house and shortly after received a phone call from RainSoft, a filtering equipment manufacturer. They offer the testing for free as an opportunity to sell you their filters.
RainSoft came in mid-October to run more thorough tests. Incidentally I as reading a completely unrelated review a couple weeks ago and came across this educative and entertaining article on RainSoft’s selling approach. To make a long story short, their pitch consists of showing you that your water is as healthy as dog pee. We wanted odorless water so bad we paid $7,500 for the entire system and the “free soap” they offered with it.
A few days later RainSoft sent a technician from their affiliated company in the area, Bristol-based Professional Water Services. The original representative (I will call him Ryan) seemed to have done a quick and efficient job setting up all the systems. He told us to wait a few minutes for the conditioned water to cleanse the pipes and then left.
The Surprise: Episode I
Only a few days after we had to call Professional Water Services (I will use PWS for short). The water smelled and tasted as disgusting as before. They said a rep would only be available the next week, meaning that in the meantime we would have to go back to buying water. Not happy.
The technician (I will call this one Chris) came in and his diagnostic was another surprise. It’s not that the system wasn’t working properly. It actually wasn’t hooked to the house at all! That’s aside from the fact that Ryan left the old spent filter in our garage even though the RainSoft sales person had assured us they would dispose of it. So Chris ended up just finishing up what the original installer never did.
Professional Water Systems Strikes Back
A few weeks later the foul smell was mostly gone, but not quite. Every then and again the reek would come back with varying intensity, at random times during the day. Just like the first time, we were informed the next available date was in the coming week. Chris came as scheduled, tweaked the system and said we should wait 24 hours to get smell-free water. Apparently we “used more than the expected amount of water”, so he had to increase the capacity of some tank to allow the gases to dissipate completely. One would assume someone at PWS would calibrate the system to account for our family of 6 before installing it. Very unhappy.
The Return of the Stench
We had decent water for 2 weeks before the climax of this romance. One night around 2am we heard the noise of water splashing downstairs. I went down to the basement to check what was going on and I realized it had become a flood zone. Water was gushing out the back of one of the RainSoft tanks. As it poured it formed a small creek under the stairs, going through a carpeted bedroom and finally running into the garage. After two hours of late-night wet-vacuuming on my knees and 4x 8-gallon buckets later I felt everything was as dry as it could be. Unfortunately it wasn’t a magic vacuum, so the carpet just went from drenched to damp.
At the time it didn’t make sense that a hose would pop off the back of the tank for any reason other than the original way it was [mis-]installed, so I plugged it back in tightly and went back to bed. In the morning I called PWS. Naively I assumed that it was just a simple problem I had actually fixed, so I didn’t complain when they scheduled the appointment for the next week as usual.
The Great Flood Awakens
The following night brought what was to be the cherry to top off Professional Water’s messy cake. Like the night before, a hose inadvertently disconnected from the back of the unit and started flooding the basement. Differently than the night before we didn’t hear anything until 4am, by which time it had flooded a much larger area, including newly installed hardwood floors. This overnight cleaning adventure yielded over 60 gallons of bad water.
I called again explaining the urgency of the situation. “They would surely understand and send someone right away”, I thought. Instead, all they told me was to turn the bypass valves (which I obviously had already done) until Chris could come over. When? That’s right, the coming week! I was beyond furious, but my bargaining power was very limited since the system was conveniently paid for in full with my Home Depot credit card and the 30-day money back guarantee was long gone (not that I had much faith in it to begin with). I called RainSoft directly and they seemed very understanding, but who knows how and if that really helped.
Professional Water, Episode IX
When Chris finally came to diagnose the system he quickly realized the problem was that Ryan had leveraged the same draining tubes the old filters used. They carried the waste water the filters used to clean themselves in the early morning outside the house, but the tubing only extended a few inches from the wall. That meant that the discharge water would fall right by the outer wall, thus soaking into the dirt and the outer layers of the house foundation. Two months before the PWS’ tanks were installed, the tubes were extended several feet away from the foundation to prevent damage, but were not buried deep enough in the ground to prevent the water from freezing. As the winter worsened that is exactly what happened. The frozen tubes forced all the water back up into the tanks and since the hoses were the weakest link of the chain, they popped off under all that pressure.
February 6th, a date to remember (positively, at least until I posted this article). This time everything went smoothly. The way Chris described the solution to safely dispose of the water really sounded like another bad chapter of this saga was about to unfold. He would run another discharge tube under the stairs, behind the bedroom, over a built-in closet, out into the garage and then back into the laundry room, allowing the water to flow into the waste water pipe behind the washer. It sounded like something that would take days to complete. He assured me it would take a couple hours. It took him and another associate only an hour and 20 minutes. To be fair, the tubes they ran through the bedroom wall are exposed instead of behind the walls as one would expect, but I was finally happy to be able to smell better after rather than before I showered.
Always the optimistic, I think that I’m happy that at least they didn’t even try to charge me for any of the visits. Going forward, I’ll be sure to do my research more thoroughly. If the sales pitch stinks, that may be a sign that ultimately their motto is “sales first, customer service last”. Desperation can be costly, more so than the embarrassment of telling your friends that come over the “stinky water disclaimer”. Next time you drink a glass of water, thank the Heavens it is not Professional Water.