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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ANIMAL ODORS IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENTAQ
BIOGAS PRODUCTION & USE
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
Disinfecting Buildings with Bleach
DRYWALL MOLD TESTING
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
GASES, EXPOSURE, TESTING
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
INDOOR AIR QUALITY METHODS COMPARED
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LP & Natural Gas Safety Hazards
Legionella Legionnaires' Disease
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE to TEST CLEAN PREVENT
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD or INDOOR AIR EMERGENCY RESPONSE
TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in BUILDINGS
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN & BIODETERIORATION AGENT CATALOG
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WETLAND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
This sewer gas smell article describes how to get rid of or cure odors in buildings including septic or sewage or sewer gas smells or "gas odors" in buildings with a focus on homes with a private onsite septic tank but including tips for owners whose home is connected to a sewer system as well.
Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted. Use of this information at other websites, in books or pamphlets for sale is reserved to the author. Technical review by industry experts has been performed and is ongoing - reviewers welcomed and are listed at References.
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In a properly constructed drain-waste-vent system and septic tank installation, sewer gases produced in the septic tank find their easiest escape path back up through the scum layer and into the septic tank inlet tee and from there up the drain waste vent (DWV) system to the building plumbing vent stack system where gases are vented above the building roof.
More septic or sewer gases may escape and make their way through the tank's outlet tee top into the soil absorption system where the gases are distributed over a larger (leachfield) area and further filtered and deodorized by the soil.
Where a building is connected to a municipal sewer, the building drain-waste-vent system (DWV) includes traps and vents to be sure that any sewer gases passing back up waste lines are vented safely above the building roof.
Watch out: as we warn in all of our sewer gas articles, because sewer gas contains methane gas (CH4) there is a risk of an explosion hazard or even fatal asphyxiation. Sewer gases also probably contain hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) In addition some writers opine that there are possible health hazards from sewer gas exposure, such as a bacterial infection of the sinuses (which can occur due to any sinus irritation).
Depending on the sewer gas source and other factors such as humidity and building and weather conditions, mold spores may also be present in sewer gases. Also see Wet Weather or Cold Weather Septic Odors or Sewage Odor Diagnosis & Repair Guide for additional odor tracing and cure advice for odors occurring during wet or cold weather.
A variety of mistakes or just plain bad luck about site terrain shape and prevailing wind, or something more serious like a failing septic system can, however, produce sewer odors at a property.
Here are some steps to diagnose and correct gas odors at properties served by septic systems. Some of these steps also apply to homes connected to a municipal sewer as well.
What Gases Form in the Septic Tank
At SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY we've already explained that gases produced in a septic tank are dangerous, as a potential source of explosion and as a cause of death by asphyxiation if someone falls into or deliberately enters a septic tank.
The gases that form in septic tanks are primarily two, methane, CH4, and hydrogen sulfide H2S. It's the H2S (a "rotten egg" smell) that people mostly notice if gases from a sewage system are not properly vented at a building. Other gases produced by the decaying organic matter in the tank are also mixed into this brew as well.
Septic Tank Gas Leak Points Outside
Experts [Burks/Minnis, Kahn et als, Jantrania] will tell readers that septic tanks and their covers and access covers and piping fittings should all be sealed air-tight with proper rubber gaskets.
In nearly 50 years of looking at septic tanks and systems, I've rarely seen a conventional concrete tank which was sealed with gaskets.
Some steel and certainly some of the newer fiberglass septic tanks may be in fact more precisely designed and built, but concrete septic tanks and covers are a bit rough and will be leaky in most installations.
Septic Tank Acidity can Cause Odors
Acidic Septic Tank Problems can also cause odors: See Acidic septic tanks at SEPTIC or SEWER PIPING LEAKS for the diagnosis and cure of this source of sewage smells.
Septic Tank Gases Back Up Into Building
Sewer gases formed in the septic tank can return to a building interior by backing up from the septic tank inlet baffle and pipe to the building drain-waste-vent piping. Inside the building sewer gas (rotten egg or methane) smells may be observed:
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