Septic Problem/Sulphur smell

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Old 10-25-04, 06:40 AM
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Septic Problem/Sulphur smell

Hi all.
Last night I had an issue with my septic tank. Every room I have that has a drain connected to it started to smell like sulphur. It got worse when I took a shower. This morning the smell seems gone. It was raining a little bit last night but not too much. The system is old...likely 50 years or more.

I had it pumped a few months ago (the last time I had this smell and knew from the previous owners it was time to pump). The guy told me the system appeared to be in excellent shape and well maintained in terms of the condition of the baffle, etc.

Any ideas?
Thanks in advance.
 
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Old 10-25-04, 07:33 AM
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Septic and sewer odors inside a home are most usually an indication of a clogged vent stack.
Whenever water runs through the drain system, if the vent is clogged, it will create another "vent" by siphoning trap water out, allowing sewer gas in.
Go up on the roof and clear any leaves, debris, etc. by hand from the top of the stack, and then flush it down good with a water hose sprayer.
If that doesn't do it, you may have to rent a heavy-duty plumber's snake and snake the stack from top to bottom, and then flush it down.
Good Luck!
Mike
 
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Old 10-26-04, 06:15 AM
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Vent stack

Excellent - thanks for your input - I knew this could be a possibility, especially with all of the leaves dropping from the trees but wasn't 100% sure this would be a venting issue. I'll do as you said and then peer down with a flashlight and rent a heavy duty snake it I see any blockage.
 
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Old 11-05-04, 06:26 AM
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Lightbulb Still problems...does this sound worse?

I managed to get up on the roof and peer down the vent stack - it is cast iron I think - anyway - I saw what I believed to be down to ALMOST the ground floor and saw no blockage at all. The weather picked up soon after and I was unable to run water down it.
All of my traps have water in them from what I can tell. Then last night it hit me - the smell was coming from the vents...BOY was it coming from the vents! I decided to go downstairs to my 180 year old basement (which I have nothing in and have not been down since maybe May or June) thinking the drain would maybe just needed water to create the seal since it wasnt an overly wet summer here. There is no drain - the water exists the house via a hole created on the side the the house somewhat slopes to (again, its a dang old house). The smell was about 10 times worse in the basement! I have no evidence of septic backup of any kind, just the smell. I have a brand new oil furnace and an old electric water heater. The water exiting my taps smells and tastes fine (hot and cold). The furnace blowing the hot air is taking the smell to the rest of the house. Today I will be opening all windows and the door (luckily it leads outside, not into my house) and see if I can't vent it like that for now. I have only had the furnace on since mid October. I guess the smell could have been there all summer since I had no reason to go down there. The smell started about 2 days after the furnace was turned on.
Before I go back up onto the roof, do you still suspect the venting? Any other avenues to check?

Thanks in advance!
 
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Old 11-05-04, 07:01 AM
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Since you've eliminated the first possible source (clogged vent stack) and traced the odor directly to the basement, and there is no trapped floor drain, then you have to figure out what is the source of water causing the odor down there.
Sounds like you may have a leaking or broken septic or sewer line near the basement. Where is any water source entering? Floor? Walls?
To find out if it's a leaking sewer line, you can get dye to flush down the system to see if it appears in your basement. If the dye appears in the water leaking into the basement, you'll need to dig up the sewer line to repair it or replace it.
You can cut out bad cast iron pipe with a rented snapcutter made for the purpose or with a reciprocating saw with metal-cutting blades. You can repair it with a length of same-size PVC white plastic or ABS black plastic pipe connected with no-hub connectors. No-hubs are neoprene rubber-lined stainless steel sleeves with torqued ss clamps.
Good luck!
Mike
 
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Old 11-05-04, 07:15 AM
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Wink

I have found it helps to put a large inline trap in the line from the home to the septic tank. This does stop the smell. If you dont have it sometimes in the summer you can get the smell just outside from the vent stack. This smell is methane gas and you dont want that in the home

ED
 
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Old 11-05-04, 08:59 AM
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Gases

Do you feel that if I am able to keep the gas buildup vented manually via windows and doors until I can find the actual solution that I we should be safe enough from issues resulting from the gas?
 
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Old 11-05-04, 10:40 AM
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Another thought..?

Someone at the office suggested that one of the drain pipes in the field might be in need of repair. Would that spawn the smell to backup into the basement? Again, I smell nothing when outside and standing on top of the septic, just the basement. My wife has been airing it out all day today - perhaps this will help me locate the source better (I hope)

btw: thanks for all your ideas/help so far guys
 
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Old 11-05-04, 10:43 AM
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You have checked all the traps in the home and they are full. I have had the furnace dry out the trap there if you have one to the sewer there for the AC after a time .

ED
 
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Old 11-05-04, 05:10 PM
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Good idea to check that, Ed!
Foligno03,
See if there is a dried out trap on the AC condensate line from the furnace area, IF it is connected to the sewer drainage system. Could be the source of the sewer gas, if it isn't a leaking sewer line.
Mike
 
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Old 11-08-04, 07:02 AM
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Drain/basement smell

Before I start - thanks for all of your help guys - it's really nice to feel I'm not alone in the dark on this!

My basement trap was full and there is no smell coming from it. I vented the basement with the windows/door and it helped until we started using the septic appliances (toilet, shower) again.
When the smell gets intense, it seems to come from near the vent pipe in the basement. Its really hard to pinpoint it beyond a 10 ft square area.
The smell is worst at the top of stairs when I open the basement door - I figure the gas is rising..? After that, the smelliest spots are near the hot water heater (electric)/wall near the septic/septic vent.
There was a bit of water on the floor on that side of the basement. I mean it is very minimal - it smells a bit, so I put a little bleach in it and then Shop-Vaced it out. There is still some water there - it might even be slowly seeping in, but it is very minimal. I never did run water down the septic vent. I guess I should?
Any other ideas?
thanks in advance
 
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Old 11-08-04, 07:57 AM
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You have a vent pipe in the basement?
 
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Old 11-08-04, 08:39 AM
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vent pipe

No, sorry - I need more coffee this morning.
The point where the waste pipe enters the wall to go to the septic tank, just above it is a pipe that connects to it (with a 'Y' connection). It is smaller than the pipe going to the septic, but larger than the rest of the plumbing. I assumed this was the vent, but I could be wrong?

 
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Old 11-08-04, 09:16 AM
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There should be no open pipes anywhere in the drain system, unless they have a trap. Does that pipe have a trap?

open???
\
\
house-----------septic

Is that what you have?

If that's the case the open end is probably a cleanout, and it should have a cap on.
 
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Old 11-09-04, 07:16 AM
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Drainpipe Layout

Sorry if I don't describe this properly as I am nothing of a plumber.

The only open drain I see in the basement is the one that is in the floor (for overflow, I assume). I assume this is normal. It has water in it and does not smell.

From what I can tell, a pipe (a main drain?) goes to the septic tank. The pipe is maybe 4 inches wide and comes from the floor above. About a foot or so above the elbow to the wall/tank, there is a Y joint and a slightly smaller pipe merges with this. All pipes are enclosed. I have assumed this to be the vent pipe. Its a very old house. Anyway - this area is generally where the smell is coming from, but I cant pinpoint it.

I hope this explains it better.
 
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Old 11-11-04, 07:37 AM
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Sulphur Smell

I'm a little confused on the problem. Is it a sewage smell or sulfur smell (rotten eggs)? I'm assuming that when you say sulphur you mean the rotten egg smell and that is exactly what I'm getting now that I have had a new water pumping system installed. My old system was a shallow well pump with a holding tank which went down about 20 feet and the new pump is 50 feet down with a submersible pump and holding tank. With the old system, I never smelled the rotten egg odor and now with the new system if I don't use the water for a couple of weeks (it's at my cottage) the hot water has this odor. It takes quite a while of running the water before the odor finally dies down. I don't have any idea why the odor is there now but I do know it's not because of sewage leaks. Anyway, this probably doesn't help you at all but if anyone knows why I'm getting this odor now I'd be greatful for some info.
 
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Old 11-11-04, 11:43 AM
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Wink

Bwilker Did you old well have a air tank on the pump and the new pump has just what we call a bladder tank for the pump now. Called Extrol or fill-trol. This can be why you get the bad smell.

ED
 
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Old 11-14-04, 08:50 AM
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Vent

Ok- FINALLY got back on the roofidn;t have a plumber snake handy so used a long hollow aluminum extendapole I used to have for the pool. I had to makeshift an longer extension. There seems to be blockage about 2 feet above the elbow in the pipe that leads to the main drain pipe for the septic. The blockage seemed spongy so I rammed it a few times and of course broke the makeshift part of the connection and the pole is stuck in the vent (please, stop laughing). I will be able to get it out . I left it in lkast night since I ran out of daylight and the house is a bit better now. Still the smell, but not quite so intense. The pole was hollow, so maybe that is helping? Assuming this is a dead squirrel or something, will a plumber's snake help this cause?
 
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Old 11-16-04, 04:24 PM
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Vent is definitely plugged

I managed to get out the post that I accidently got in with no problem at all. I bought a 25 ft snake and seem to have only made a small hole in the blockage after an hour of playing. Everytime I find a part of the blockage that needs to be cleared and start to twist, it slides into the existing hole. How would a plumber clear this? Special snake maybe?
 
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Old 11-17-04, 08:55 AM
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Rotten Egg Smell

Ed,

The new holding tank that I have now is the same as the old one where both tanks have the bladder. I was talking with someone the other day and they said to take the rod in the water heater out (I think it's called the anodizer) because that could be the cause of the odor. It's a new water heater so I thought I'd give it a try. If I take the rod out will the chemicals in the water eventually eat at the metal walls of the tank?
 
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Old 11-23-04, 06:08 AM
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Vent finally cleared

Hi All,
Just a quick followup. I managed to dislodge the blockage in the vent stack (it sounded like it had rocks in it when it finally came loose). So far things are much less intense smelling. It has been incredibly bad smelling the last few days, so I may need to give it a few days to see if this has truly solved the problem.
I just wanted to thank you guys for all your help!
 
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Old 11-23-04, 11:11 AM
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Methane is odorless and colorless and you can't tell it's there without testing for it and it is dangerous in confined spaces. H2S (sulfur-hydrogen sulfide) gas smells up the place with a very little bit of it in the air and it will rise and can build up to dangerous levels in confined spaces. Both are flamable and methane can explode.

I suspect the water in the basement could be sewage water due to a break in the sewer line; the gas would have escaped from it as the water was aerated and even with the blocked vent pipe, the odor shouldn't be coming into the basement unless water was leaking into the soil outside the cellar wall. I strongly suggest inspecting a basement once per week even if ya don't like to!! Whistle and stomp yer feet ifn'yer scared!

The guy with the 'sulfur' odor and deeper well... a hot water only odor is due to sulfate and possibly other reducing type (harmless) bacteria in the water that react with certain types of anode rod materials. Turning up the temp on the heater to 140f kills them; SRB and IronRB. Removing the rod gets rid of the problem too if you can do so without dropping some of it into the heater. Replacing with another type may or may not solve the problem. You can also periodically sanitize the heater with bleach. This is a water quality problem.

Gary
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Old 11-24-04, 06:22 AM
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Yup, that's sewage alright!

Thanks for your input Gary.

I heeded your words and went down to the basement again and low and behold she still stinks. I didn't realize it, but I had access to a guy here that has a fair amount of experience in this. I bribed him to come over last night with a few beers and he says without a doubt its sewage in the basement, just not much of it. He suggested clearing the tank access point where the liquid is stored to see if I can get a better idea of what might be happening. I have to date only opened the access point where the tank is supposed to be emptied, so I will have to do some prodding I guess. He said if it is over filled or filled right to the top, it would likely be a break or blockage in a pipe leading out to the field. If it was dry, the tank would likely have a leak or a clog/break between the house and the tank. If the water seemed to be a foot or so from the top, it would likely be a break between the house and the tank.
Does that sound reasonable to you?
 
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Old 11-24-04, 04:41 PM
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Sounds right to me.

Gary
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Old 11-29-04, 11:21 AM
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Most Likely Solved

I think the solution has been found!
I spent some time digging up the access holes. The tank was full to the top.
I dug up the pipe to the house and there was no noticable leakage. I dug about a foot away from the outlet pipe to the field and after about 3 shovelfulls...baaawoosh! Texas tea! all kinds of it! I dug a 6 X 3 ft trench and it was almost full to the brim with sewage.
We had a guy pump the trench water and the tank today so we could see where the problem is. He decided to take a look himself with a few digs. Turns out that the outlet pipe was once repaired and there was no coupling between the 2 joints. There was a 1 inch space between the new 3ft pipe (attached to the tank) and the pre-existing drainline. Maybe it disintegrated...?
Anyway - I have yet to see this myself as I am currently at work, but after I join them (after I run some water in the pipe to make sure there is no other blockage), I will leave the trouble area open to make sure that this is the only problem.

The pumper also noticed a crack in the tank (Concrete). It doesn't appear to be leaking to him at all. Is there a way to seal this?

thanks!
 
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