Septic Odors

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    • #278827

      I moved into a newly built house one year ago. We have a septic tank. We are noticing strong methane type smells at randon times, coming from the basement. What should we do? Should I have a plumber come and do a smoke test? A pressure test? The odor is not coming from any of the main floors, just the basement. Where should I begin to diagnose the problem?


    • #299380

      Check all floor drain traps to make sure they are not dry.

    • #299381
      John Aldrich1

      Can’t pound a nail, to expand on the advice offered by Robala, pour cold water into all of the seldom used drains in the basement of your home. It is common for the water in the traps to evaporate, and allow sewer gasses (probably Hydrogen sulfide, or Mercaptans as Methane is odorless) from the sewer, or septic tank system to emanate into the house. Also, a good suggestion that I read the other day on one of the bulletin boards, was to pour about a cup of mineral oil into the seldom used drains in order to minimize the evaportation of the water from these traps.

      If the sewer gas odors persist after you have filled all of the traps, then call a Licensed Master Plumber to determine if, in fact, these are indeed sewer gasses that you smell. The odors could be coming from a natural gas leak, or from a humidifier on the furnace. The first test that should be performed is a Peppermint oil test to determine, whether or not, it is indeed gasses from the sewer that you are smelling. A smoke test should be performed only if the source of the sewer gas leak can not be found through visual inspection.

      Other potential sources of the sewer gas odors are leaks in the vent system, or leaks in the seals of a sewage ejector pump installation.

      If you lack the mechanical ability to “Pound a Nail”, then you should not attempt to solve this odorous gas problem yourself. That is, of course, if filling the floor drains, and other seldom used drains in the basement fails to solve the problem.

    • #299382
      John Aldrich1

      Can’t pound a nail, I regret that I deleted your e-mail message to me in error. Please resend your message and I will respond. JWA

    • #299383

      I found and fixed the problem!!

      We have a septic tank with a pump tank INSIDE the septic tank. There are electrical wires that run from inside the septic tank to my fuse box in the basement.

      The conduit that houses these electric wires was not sealed at the end that is in the basement. The septic gases were going from the pump tank in the septic into our basement through the conduit.
      I went to the hardware store and bought clear silicone sealer. I filled the conduit end in the basement around the wires. PROBLEM SOLVED FOR $3.59!!

    • #299384
      John Aldrich1

      Way to go Anthony!!! That very same thing happened to me the first time that I installed a septic system that required an effluent pump. My solution was to make the electrical connection of the service wire to the pump service wire in a water-tight electrical box, and placed the electrical box in an irrigation valve box next to the pump vault riser. The conduit that contains the service wire to the breaker box is not exposed to the odorous sewer gasses, but I always fill the far end with silicone seal anyway, just to be safe. JWA

    • #299385

      If you can smell methane, then you are better than the rest of us. Methane is a colorless, ODORLESS gas.

    • #299386

      I guess JWA and I are better the the rest of you then.

    • #299387
      John Aldrich1

      Can’t pound a nail, Richard is correct. Methane gas is colorless, and odorless, as I pointed out in the second sentence of my first response to your inquiry. Richard just doesn’t read my responses carefully enough, but Anthony, you are also correct, we are better than the rest of them. :>) JWA

    • #299388

      You’re right John, I should give up my successful chemistry career (and lecturing on hazmat) for a career digging holes with a spade. I forgot, I cannot do that, it requires having a strong back, not superior scholarship. that makes you better at digging holes than the rest of us, but, then again, I was able to go to college, get an education and a career.
      You are an expert at holes, and we all know that holes are VOIDS, and that is what makes you special, you ARE a void, so you know how they work.

      The Friendly Chemist

    • #299389

      I wonder if either one of you bothered to read my profile. I’d gladly educate you on any topic therein.

      The Friendly Chemist

    • #299390

      If you are looking for some friendly advice on this site, John Aldrich is very helpful. I am not sure what his credentials are compared to others on this site, but John is VERY knowledgeable.

      The bottom line is this: I came to this site with a problem in my septic system, JWA helped me fix that problem.

      Thanks again John. Keep up the good work.

    • #299391

      Just as an observer, trying to find some information on a similar problem, I find that Richard’s comments identify him as a pompous, arrogant, self-important though intellectual ass! Friendly? I don’t think so.

    • #299392
      John Aldrich1


      Thank you for the kind words. I prefer to let the quality of my responses to inquiries posted on this Bulletin Board expose my expertise, and qualifications, rather than to list my credentials. In my view, credentials alone do not establish credibility, and do not insure knowledge of any specific subject. I also believe that correct spelling, and proper grammar used in ones responses are just as important as technical knowledge in establishing ones credibility. With that said, if you would like to read about my “credentials”, click on PlumbViews at the top of this page. Then click on “Meet The Authors”, go to the picture of my ugly mug, and click on “Introduction.”

      I have written only one article on the PlumbViews section of this website because I believe most of the people that read the PlumbViews articles are conventional plumbers that have no interest in the on-site sewage treatment system industry about which I would write.

      My time is better spent in participating in the NATIONAL SMALL FLOWS CLEARINGHOUSE (NSFC) Discussion Forum which pertains to this area of interest. I prefer to spend my time on the website in writing detailed (and sometimes lengthy) responses to folks that are experiencing specific problems with their on-site sewage treatment systems. I respond only to those inquiries regarding technology with which I have expertise. There is nothing gained in responding to insults hurled at me by others who regularly monitor this website, and basically the folks who are posting inquiries care only about solving their specific problem. Most of the intelligent folks that do read the insulting personal attacks, recognize the insecurity, and ignorance of the attackers. A case in point is the latest response made by Bebly.


      Thank you for your insightful response to this inquiry. JWA

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