Sewer Gas Odors
Sewer Gas Can Be Dangerous
Property owners should check for and secure any open plumbing waste lines they may have before a problem occurs.
Sewer gas could be flammable, displace oxygen or contain toxic materials that should not be inhaled and could be a serious threat to life and health.
Wastewaters contain small concentrations of dissolved gases. Some of these are carbon dioxide resulting from the decomposition of organic matter, nitrogen dissolved from the atmosphere, dissolved oxygen and hydrogen sulfide.
Hydrogen sulfide gas is toxic. It is heavier than air and will collect in low places. Hydrogen sulfide is responsible for the rotten-egg odor of wastewaters. Only a small amount is enough to cause an odor.
Proper Plumbing to Prevent Problems
Residential plumbing systems have traps. These are curved pipes that collect water. They prevent odors from backing up into the house because the water in the trap acts as an airtight seal that blocks out the odor.
- Fixtures that don't have any traps should be corrected.
- If there are any openings in the waste plumbing from removed fixtures, these need to be closed.
- Cleanout caps need to be replaced after servicing.
- Sewer pipes should never be allowed to rust or corrode through, allowing sewer vapors to leak through.
These are all potentially dangerous situations that should be corrected by a qualified plumber at once. They constitute a harmful vapor hazard in the home.
Resident Self-Protective Measures
Keep Water In All Traps
Water should be added regularly to plumbing fixtures, especially any seldom-used sinks, toilets or floor drains that may have dried out. If any fixtures have not been used in a while, the water in the water-seal traps may have evaporated. That could allow sewer gas and odors to enter your home or business.
Keep Vents Open
If all the traps are full of water and there is still an odor, the problem could be in the vent that carries sewer gas out of the house and lets it exit through a vent in the roof. Vents that have become plugged by leaves or a bird's nest create a potentially serious problem because if the sewer gas cannot escape, it will back up into the home or business. Problems in vents are best handled by a plumber.
Although hydrogen sulfide in even very small quantities smells like rotten eggs, methane and carbon monoxide are odorless. Symptoms of exposure include drowsiness, headache, nausea and dizziness. If you experience symptoms, leave the building and call 911 from outside..
You can report sewer gas odors at any time by calling the Sanitary District at 815 758-3513. While there is an operator on duty at all times, if you are unable to reach the plant at this number, call the non-emergency number of the City of DeKalb Police (815 748-8400) and they will contact us. If the odor is strong, evacuate the building before making the call. Better safe than sorry.