Drain waste vent problem?

Old 09-06-01, 08:19 PM
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During the past month, I've noticed a sulfur/sewage smell coming from our faucets in both our upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. The odor is only noticeable when the faucets are in use, and the odor is NOT coming from the drain, but from the faucet head. This was annoying, but didn't seem to be a pressing problem. Now in the past week, we're getting a strong whiff of sewage throughout the whole downstairs, although the odor does not remain continuously---it comes and goes from room to room. We've checked the basement for dead animals, but it seems to me that it's related to the faucet odor mentioned above. We're having no other problems with drain clogs or cleanouts...we've snaked them all out during the past year without incident.

Is there a way to find out if something has gotten into our drain waste venting system and perhaps clogged it up, sending the stench back into the house? Maybe I'm on the wrong track, but I'd like to eliminate the drain waste vent system as the culprit before moving on to other possible causes of this problem.
Old 09-06-01, 08:46 PM
Mike Swearingen's Avatar
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If you have odor coming from your faucets, the most likely cause is a build-up of a common harmless (but smelly) bacteria in the water heater after a period of sitting idle (vacation, etc.?).
Turn the gas or power off to your water heater. Turn on all hot water faucets (sinks and tub/showers) and let them run wide open for 15-20 minutes, or until the bacteria are flushed out and the odor goes away.
If the odor also is coming from your cold water faucet, you have a bacteria problem in your water supply. If you're on public water, call the water department. Have the water tested by the Health Department to determine if it is harmful bacteria from contamination, whether you're on public or private water supply.
If you're on a well, to decontaminate it, you will need to open up the wellhead, and pour in a few gallons of bleach. Close it back up, re-prime the pump, and run all faucets until bleach water is running from them.
Let the bleach sit in your well, pump, water heater (turned off), and all water lines overnight or at least 8-12 hours.
Flush the entire system until you can't smell bleach in the water anymore.
This usually happens only with a private water well system that is not chlorinated, but it can happen to public water systems, too.
If you have odor coming from any drain, then it most likely is being caused by a clogged vent pipe(s), just as you suspect.
To correct this, go up on the roof (carefully) and inspect all vent pipes for leaves, debris, birdnests, etc. that may be causing a clog. Remove all that you can reach, and flush the vent pipe with a water hose sprayer.
If that doesn't clear the d/w/v pipes, rent a plumber's snake and snake them out from top (roof) to bottom (as far down the drain as the snake will go), and flush with a hose.
Good Luck! Mike


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