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Photograph of Don't fall into a septic tank - it's likely to be fatal.Methane Gas & Sewer Gas Dangers

  • METHANE GAS HAZARDS - CONTENTS: Methane & SEPTIC or SEWER gas explosion or asphyxiation dangers include: Explosion, asphyxiation, contamination hazards from methane gas or septic / sewer gas exposure Comment
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about methane gas produced by septic tanks and septic systems
  • REFERENCES
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Sewer gas & methane gas dangers:

This article explains Methane Gas & Septic System Dangers from Gases, gives basic advice, and cites additional reference material.

This article is part of our Septic Safety article series that outlines safety warnings & procedures for septic systems and cesspools, and provides some safety suggestions for septic system inspectors, septic system inspections, septic pumping contractors, and home owners.

Septic tanks, cesspools, and drywells present serious hazards including septic cave-in's or collapses, methane gas explosion hazards, and asphyxiation hazards. Simple precautions which we describe here can help avoid a dangerous or expensive septic problem.



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Methane Gas Hazards around Septic Systems, Methane Gas Toxicity vs. Methane Explosion & Asphyxiation Risks, & How to Measure Methane Gas Levels

Open sewer cleanout in basement (C) Daniel FriedmanMethane Gas Hazards are primarily of explosion or asphyxiation

We commented at SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY That methane gas which maybe encountered in septic system is both explosive and an asphyxiant.

A thoughtful reader, George Fielder, previously a salesperson for GfG Instrumentation, pointed out that these are the hazards. (We had inaccurately stated that methane gas was "toxic".)

[Click to enlarge any image]

Our photo (left) illustrates a previously hidden source of sewer gas odors in this home: an open waste line cleanout that had been hidden under a pile of rubble.

 

Measurement Instruments for Levels of Methane Gas

Mr. Fielder added that

... additionally, toxic and combustible gases like methane and H2S that would be found in a septic tank can be readily measured by a portable, handheld gas monitor that can be rented from almost any safety equipment supply company or trench equipment rental company like United Rentals.

They are easy to use and understand direct reading instruments that if nothing else might satisfy the curiosity of the do-it-yourselfer who likes to stick his nose in it.

True the user will need to know and understand the measurement scale and exposure levels for the particular gases being measured but this also can be easily explained when renting said instrument and reviewing an MSDS sheet. Most portable handheld monitors on the market today are less complex than a volt-ohm meter and can readily be understood with a brief explanation.

Consult Your Local Safety Equipment Distributor

Readers who have the need to measure methane gas levels or who have questions about the hazards of entering confined spaces such as septic tanks should contact their local safety equipment distributor for further advice. In addition, local fire & emergency service officials as well as gas distribution companies as well as some home inspectors or environmental testing firms may have expertise and gas testing or measurement equipment on hand.

For more detailed information on methane gas exposure levels and testing
see TOXIC GAS TESTING - Methane Gas Hazards

More information about methane gas hazards, toxicity, or other environmental hazards is available from public and professional agencies and associations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) www.aiha.org, OSHA www.osha.gov, and the Mine Safety & Health Administration www.msha.gov. Also see Industrial Hygiene News.

Stay out of Septic Tanks and Link to Septic & Cesspool Safety Article

However, we emphasize that in ordinary procedures used in the care, repair, or maintenance of septic systems, the safety warnings we've listed above should be followed with care, and in general, quantitative measurements of the level of methane or other gases are not needed during a septic system repair.

Anyone working on or around or owning a septic tank should be sure to s
ee SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY.

Beware of Explosion or Asphyxiation Hazards of Sewer Gas or Fuel Gas Accumulation in buildings

As we report at SEWER GAS ODORS, potentially explosive levels of gases can accumulate in a building from several sources including explosive levels of sewer gas, swamp gas, or fuel gas from a variety of possible sources including plumbing leaks, improper plumbing venting, LP or natural gas piping leaks or errors, or even swamp gas accumulation under a building.

At OUTHOUSE / LATRINE FIRE & EXPLOSION we describe a methane gas explosion in an outhouse - admittedly an unusual event.

Also see BACKDRAFTING & SEWER/SEPTIC ODORS

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Continue reading at METHANE GAS SOURCES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see METHANE GAS HAZARD FAQs

Or see METHANE GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS

Or see PLUMBING S-TRAP CODES & HAZARDS

Or see PLUMBING DRAIN NOISES how errors cause trap siphonage, odors, and noises

Or see PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS - home for guidance in tracking down plumbing smells

Or see SEWER GAS ODORS

Or see TESTS for SEWER GAS INDOORS

Suggested citation for this web page

METHANE GAS HAZARDS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to GAS HAZARDS in BUILDINGS

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