Sewer gas. Every type of septic system or sanitary sewer system produces sewer gas. Properly working systems vent the sewer gas away from households and businesses. But, when things are not in pristine working conditions, the gas begins to leak into your home, causing the dreaded rotten egg smell.
What is Sewer Gas?
Sewer gas is a byproduct of decomposing organic material AKA, the sewage (poop) in your septic system or sanitary sewer system. Composed of mostly methane gas, an odorless gas, the rotten egg smell comes from other gases.
The most common culprit? Hydrogen sulfide or H2S. Because of its weight, the smell will be strongest in the lower levels of your home or business.
If you notice the smell in your water—check your communities’ water sulfur content. Some areas have high sulfur quantities due to the environment.
Is Hydrogen Sulfide Safe?
The amount of H2S produced by household and business sewage systems is below the threshold for H2S to be dangerous. While the smell can be potent, that doesn’t indicate any danger.
The human nose can detect H2S at 1/400 times lower than a harmful level—meaning it would need to be 400x stronger before becoming dangerous to breathe.
There are some exceptions to this. Methane and H2S can be dangerous if inhaled in small-enclosed spaces. It would be wise to avoid crawling through crawl spaces and pipes without proper masks and protection when a rotten egg smell is present.
In addition, your ability to smell H2S decreases over time as the smell overwhelms your senses. Just because you can no longer smell it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
How is the Sewer Gas Getting Into my Home?
As a gas, it does not need a wide opening to seep into your home. And while burning a scented candle may help, it doesn’t stop the leak.
Causes can range from a $10 home fix to a professional pipe fix. Either way, it is important to find the sources of the leak as it may have broader-reaching effects than a foul smell.
Luckily, one of the more common causes happens to be the least expensive to fix. All drains have a water reservoir used to cap the drain. If left unused for long periods of time, these traps dry up which allows sewer gas from your pipes and septic or sewage system to back up into your homes instead of flowing away.
Check your downstairs sinks, floor drains and toilets first as they are closest to the pipes and lines of your septic system. Once found, pour a quart of water into the dry tap to refill. If the seal around the drain is dry and cracked, visit your local home improvement store for DIY replacements.
Broken, Cracked or Leaking Drain Lines
A broken, cracked or leaking drain line allows gas to leak back into your home through its lowest level. Unfortunately, this requires a professional to confirm—as well as fix.
If you suspect your drain lines are leaking, call your local septic system or municipal sewage company to take a look.
Clogged Drains, Blockages, and Backups
Have you been putting your system through extra duties with football parties, holiday gatherings or general overuse? That rotten eggs smell could be coming out of your system due to a blockage or backup.
In this instance, try giving your system a rest by reducing your use. Let the laundry stack up. Avoid the dishwasher. Take shorter showers. If these water saving tips don’t help and the smell persists, call a professional. It could be time pump your tank or get your drain lines checked.
Post-hurricane season, the rain doesn’t stop. With heavy rains comes a saturated drainfield. Your septic system doesn’t have anywhere to disperse the treated waste, leaving it in the tank with less room for those smelly gases. If the ground doesn’t dry up, the sewer gas eventually backs up into your home.
If this problem persists, it could be time to look into better draining landscaping. If that doesn’t help or isn’t an option, your drainfield may need to be move or expanded to a better-suited area.
While smelly, sewer gas isn’t necessarily harmful in the low doses produced in a household. But, you shouldn’t light candles and forget about it. While it may be an easy fix, it could be a sign of larger issues. Contact the professionals at Advanced Septic Services at 352.242.6100 to have your septic system inspected or repaired.