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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
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.
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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.
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.
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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