How to diagnose & cure sewer smells at septic or sump pumps. How to find and fix the source of smells coming from a sump pump it, effluent pump system, or sewage grinder or sewage ejector pump installation.
This article series gives installation and maintenance advice for Sump Pumps, Sewage Ejector Pumps, Septic Grinder Pumps, Sewage Pumping Stations, &
Septic Pump Alarms. We discuss sewage grinder pump types, sizes, voltages, horsepower, installation and maintenance.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Sewage grinder pump leaks & odor complaints
What to check when troubleshooting odors or smells from a sump pit, effluent pump, or sewage ejector pump system:
The following advice is excerpted from SEPTIC / SEWER ODOR SOURCE TABLE. See that more complete article if you are having trouble tracking down the source of sewage or septic smells at or around a building.
Check the grinder pump for a valve failure, causing sewage backup
Check for a loose, damaged, leaky, or lost cover gasket at the sewage grinder pump
Check for a clogged vent on the sewage grinder pump (not present on all systems)
Pour clean water into the sewage grinder pump or ejector pump pit sufficient to pump out sewage water before leaving the system out of use for a month or longer.
OPINION: do not rely on drain cleaners (that can damage the pump) nor on chemical additives or deodorants poured into the grinder pump system. Even if such chemicals give odor relief the effect can only be temporary as they will be ejected when the system is used.
(Feb 18, 2015) firstname.lastname@example.org said:
We have two septic pumps in our building. One is for a small break room and the other services two large bathrooms. We have a terrible smell coming from a larger septic grinder pump and I was concerned about what chemicals I can pour down the drain to eliminate the smell. I know bleach reacts with ammonia creating a toxic gas so I didn't want to put anyone at harm. Is there anything I can do to prevent this odor? It does have a large 4" vent that goes straight to the roof and we sealed all the cover plates and holes with silicone sealant but the smell is still strong and leaks into our hallways where customers come through. What can I do?
Mike, rather than pouring chemicals I'd look for the problem source to find a more long lasting and safer solution. A venting system defect, missing check valve, or a leak, for example, may be at fault.
Question: Use of chemical treatments to control odors at a Zoeller sump pit ?
6 June 2016 Pete Beck said:
I have 1/3 HP Zoeller sump pump. Can I use a chemical like the ones used to keep black water odor under control in travel trailers and motor homes,,to keep my sump pit from smelling, w/out damaging the pump...Thanks in advance for you help....Pete
Pete, you don't indicate which Zoeller pump you have instaalled, nor am I sure (since you use the term "sump pump") if we are discussing a de-watering sump pump installation or a sewage (blackwater) ejector pump.
I'm guessing the latter since you refer to "black water odor". In that case odors shouldn't be coming out of your pump system. For **example**, referring to Zoeller's Instruction Manual for the company's effluent/sump/de-watering pump (notice this is not a sewage grinder pump), for a wide range of Zoeller pump models (( Zoeller Pump Model 55 / 59, 70, 73, 75, 139 Series, 140 / 4140, 145 / 4145, 160 / 4160 Series, 180 / 4180, 191, 371, 372, 373 Series effluent & de-waatering pumps as well as Zoeller pump models 211, 212 Series, 270 / 4270 Series, 280 / 4280, 290 / 4290 Series sewage pumps (again these are not grinder pumps),)) available from the company's online literature library, you'll read that to control odors the company cites two features:
Gas-tight seals are required to contain gases and odors.
Vent gases and odors to the atmosphere through vent pipe.
So I'd start by checking those features of your installation. If, for example, your system uses a loose cover that's a very common and correctable source of sewage smells.
Use of chemical additives and treatments, depending on the chemical, might not harm the pump but shouldn't be necessary. And harsh or caustic chemicals may also damage the pump. Zoeller includes this warning in the service checklist for the example manual we cite:
Abrasive material and adverse chemicals could possibly deteriorate impeller and pump housing
You don't say if you're connected to a private septic or public sewer - beware of dumping treatments in volume into a septic system. Search InspectApedia for SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS for details.
If you don't have the manual for your Zoeller pump, contact the company at the address we give below.
Watch out: tracking down the source of sewer gas odors or septic smells can be tricky. At a recent inspection looking into a complaint of sewer odors in the kitchen of an older home, with the homeowner we ultimately traced the odor source to dry traps in floor drains in the basement below.
This pump manual pertains to the following pumps in the applications recommended by Zoeller:
Recommended Zoeller Pump Models by Application
Effluent 1 / Sump / De-Watering Pump Models
Sewage Ejector Pump Models
Zoeller 55 / 59, 70, 73, 75, 139 Series
Zoeller 211, 212 Series
Zoeller 140 / 4140, 145 / 4145, 160 / 4160 Series
Zoeller 270 / 4270 Series
Zoeller 180 / 4180, 191, 371, 372, 373 Series
Zoeller 280 / 4280, 290 / 4290 Series
Zoeller's notes include:
1 Effluent systems should specify that pumps should not handle solids exceeding 3/4” in order to prevent large solids from entering leeching fields, mound systems, etc. (70 Series
have 3/8” solids capability. 50, 140/4140, 371 and 372 Series have ½”, 130 Series has 5/8”, 145/4145, 160/4160, 180/4180 and 373 models have 3/4”.)
Where code permits, sewage pumps can be used for effluent systems. Non-automatic pumps with external-level controls are recommended for septic tank effluent applications
Watch out: note that the company explains that you may use a sewge pump for effluent systems - that is, for pumping clarified septic effluent up to an absorption bed, soakbed, or drainfield or leaching bed. The converse is not true, that is, you should not use a pump intended for effluent or de-watering to try to pump raw sewage. It will clog and fail.
Watch out: to reduce the risk of clogging and also pump seal failures, a vent hole and check valve may be required in your installation.
Watch out: proper electrical wiring, including proper electrical grounding and ground fault protection are necessary for liquid handling pumps such as these in order to reduce the risk of fatal electrical shock.
For help tracking down and fixing sewer gas or septic odors in or at buildings start at ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER - home
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 Weinman Installation and Operation Manual, Submersible Sewage Ejector Pump, Crane Pumps and Systems, 420 Third Street, Piqua, Ohio 45356 Phone: (937) 778-8947 and Crane Pumps and Systems,
83 West Drive, Bramton,
Ontario, Canada L6T 2J6,
Phone: (905) 457-6223
Fax: (937) 773-7157 Fax: (905) 457-2650
www.cranepumps.com. See Weinman submersible sewage ejector pump installation and service manual for an example instructions for the Weinman Series WE and 3WE sewage ejector pumps ranging from .5 to 1 hp. Web search 8/9/11, original source: http://www.cranepumps.com/downloadables/CATALOGS_OIPMs/
 Environment One Corporation, 2773 Balltown Road, Niskayuna, NY 12309, Tel 518-346-6161,l website: www.eone.com/sewers
E/One Extreme Series grinder pump stations for indoor and outdoor installations, residential and light commercial applications.
 Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.)
"Grinder Pump Frequently Asked Questions", Groton Public Works, 134 Groton Long Point Road
Groton, CT 06340
(860) 448-4083, retrieved 16 Aug 2015, original source: http://www.groton-ct.gov/depts/pubwks/docs/Grinder%20Pump%20Website%20info%20the%20hurricane.pdf
Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books
Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference for both property owners and septic system designers.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill.
Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers:
* Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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