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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
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 article explains how to diagnose and cure methane, sewer gas or septic odors (and other building smells and odors by noticing weather conditions, season, temperature, wind, and site locations of strongest smell.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Also see TRACK SEPTIC ODOR TO SOURCE and see SITE, WEATHER, NEIGHBORS SEWER ODORS and see our broad-scope article on diagnosis and cure of sewer gas and septic odors: Sewer Gas Odors diagnosing, finding, and curing septic tank and sewer line smells.
Where on the property are odors strongest? you may be able to point to a waste line, building exit piping, leaks at a septic tank, drainfield failure, or even a neighbor's septic system problem.
Look for a wet area, possibly covered by snow in northern climates - kick the snow aside in a grid pattern over the septic system components (don't' fall into a collapsing septic system - it can be fatal). Look for areas where snow has melted to a thinner cover. This can occur in a normal system (bacterial action in the soil over the septic system and warm septic effluent carry heat out of the septic tank). But it can also be a clue of sewage effluent coming to the surface. Check such areas for effluent.
If a waste line is blocked or partly blocked and the odors are near the house, such as at the house wall at the waste line exit point, effluent could be running along the buried pipe but outside it, having leaked from a damaged pipe at the wall, between the wall and the septic tank, or at the tank itself there could be an effluent leak where the line enters the tank, or at the tank cleanout top cover (which would indicate a blocked tank outlet or blocked drainfield).
Effluent will follow a buried pipe because it runs in a trench dug in the soil - the pipe and backfill in the trench are less solidly packed than in the surrounding soil - the trench acts as a conduit to bring sewage effluent to the house if the trench is filling with liquid.
Broken pipe leaks may be mistaken for ground water leaks:
At left we show a broken sewer pipe found by lifting a section of sidewalk in a soft smelly area of the yard.
At a different property where basement paneling was removed following "a history of basement water entry from 'rising ground water' (according to the basement de-watering company)" a company had installed an expensive interior trench and drain system and sump pump to pump the "ground water" away.
We saw an inverted "vee" of leak stains on the basemen wall extending from below the main waste line where it exited the building. It was obvious that the water entry had been not from rising ground water but from a broken leaking waste line outside the wall. Sure enough, our septic dye appeared in the new basement trench and drain system in just a few minutes.
The basement de-watering system had not been needed at this home, and the owner still needed to have the broken waste line excavated and repaired.
Look for leaks at a waste line, perhaps first by having a plumber snake the line from inside the building to see if s/he feels evidence of a broken or collapsing or damaged pipe between the house and the septic tank. See How to Find Distance to Drain Blockage
If the drain field is saturated or blocked, expect to find abnormally high sewage level in the septic tank, possibly even backing up and flowing out when the tank is opened, and possibly also evident at the distribution box. See SEPTIC TANK INSPECTION PROCEDURE
Sewer gases occurring in wet weather: see Backdrafting & Sewer/Septic Odors and SEWER GAS ODORS in COLD WEATHER where we include a discussion of wet weather and flooding as causes of sewer gases and odors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Questions & answers or comments about the role of season, outdoor weather conditions of rain, snow, wind, or temperature to track down and fix the source of sewer gas odors or septic gas odors in and around buildings.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Use links just below at the left of each page to navigate this document or to view other topics at this website. Green links show where you are in our document or website.
Sewer Odor Tracking - see detailed links at page top & left
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books