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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BACKWATER VALVES, SEWER LINE
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
METHANE GAS SOURCES
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
ANIMAL or URINE ODOR SOURCE DETECTION
PIPING IN BUILDINGS, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Sewer or Septic Odor troubleshooting: here we explain how to sort out the causes of a methane or sewer gas smell by distinguishing between odors at plumbing fixtures compared with odors due to drain. waste, or vent piping troubles. The photograph at page top provides a lot of septic odor diagnostic information, as we will elaborate here.
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Diagnosing fixture versus plumbing system blockage problems for correcting septic or sewer gas odors
How to tell a local problem at one fixture from a system wide plumbing problem:
Odors caused by slow drains or septic drainfields: Included here but not common is the odor causing effects of a slow drain or drainfield: sometimes there will be a partial clog, causing septic effluent to back up and then recede as the drain empties.
In this case there may be no visible actual sewage backup into the building. The same thing could occur if the backup was caused by a failing drain field - the system may back up when there is a large volume of wastewater but then slowly recede. Or it might just create enough back pressure to push gas through the traps but no actual effluent. See Septic Inspection Testing for details.
How to diagnose partial drain blockages: If a partial drain blockage is the problem (watch out it could be due to a damaged pipe or tree roots in which case simply snaking the line is just a band-aid short-term fix), you might notice the problem more when the volume of wastewater surges, such as when doing laundry or emptying a bathtub. See CLOGGED DRAINS.
An increase in the number of occupants in the building (and thus using the bathrooms) will also cause a surge in wastewater volume and may disclose these conditions.
Septic odors in the house could indicate that effluent is backing up into the house past the traps which normally intercept the odors, or entering at a building window or door which has had a plumbing vent terminated too close by. Such odors may or may not mean the septic system is failing. A backed up septic system does not always equal a failing septic system
See and also SEPTIC / SEWER ODOR SOURCE TABLE for details.
A very common source of drainfield failure as well as an occasional source of septic tank back-flooding and occasional push of sewer gases (or sewage) back into a building is the failure to protect the septic tank and drainfield from surface runoff and ground water. An intercept drain may be needed. If this is the case septic problems (odors or backups) will be associated with heavy rainfall or wet weather.
See SEWER GAS ODORS in COLD WEATHER for details.
If you are smelling sewage odors outside in cold weather but not inside be sure to check these items:
Check for wet areas that may indicate septic system effluent leaking to the surface of your own or nearby properties.
The photograph shows that even in deep winter snow, melted wet areas may be observed if they are active.
See Septic Inspection Testing for a list of diagnostic articles.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books