Septic Tank Gases: Production, Hazards & Leakage

Septic tanks are critical components of the septic system. These hold waste matter for separation and treatment.

Treatment involves the breakdown of this waste matter into its simplest forms. Our discussion will focus on one of such by-products; in this case, septic tank gases.

About Septic Tank Gases

All septic tanks being used will generate gases.

Such gases include methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ammonia. Others include nitrogen dioxide as well as traces of carbon monoxide.

These are very deadly gases when inhaled for significant periods of time and could be fatal. Hydrogen sulfide gas has a distinct foul odor. This smells like rotten eggs which can easily be picked up by human olfactory organs.

Now that we’ve provided information on the constituent gases found in septic tanks, it’s also necessary to explain how they come about.

How Septic Tank Gases are Produced

Part of the household waste treatment process includes the channeling of waste products such as fecal matter and wastewater down the drain. These collect in your septic tank where they are kept from clogging your drain field until they are processed.

To be processed, bacterial action is needed to break these down to their simplest forms. There are basically aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. The former requires oxygen to act on, or digest waste while the latter doesn’t.

These digestive enzymes or bacteria found in the tank breakdown organic solids or waste into liquid and gases. This is where all the gas mentioned earlier comes from. At low concentrations, such gases only give a foul odor but pose no real threat.

However, the reverse is the case when fully exposed to these gases. The results could be fatal. You could be knocked out unconscious when you fall into a septic tank or when reaching out to save someone trapped in it.

Only experts should be allowed to perform such delicate tasks.

How Septic Tank Gases Find their Way into Homes

Every once in a while, homeowners may be faced with difficult septic system issues.

One of them includes the escape of septic tank gases into your home. Remember we said these gases have a strong foul odor. To be more specific, hydrogen sulfide is known for its characteristic rotten egg smell.

Your foul-smelling home situation will require an urgent and permanent fix, but first, you need to detect its source.

GUIDE: About Sewer Gas Detectors

We all know that it comes from the septic tank, but through what points? So, a question arises; how did septic tank gas get into my home?

Septic tank gases get into homes through leaks, blocked air vents, cracked pipes, dry plumbing, clogged drains, and loose toilets. These are the most likely paths to escape.

  • Leaks

Leaks are a common cause of septic tank gas escape.

Such a situation is most evident with improper installation of pipes and vents among other components. This is one major reason why you need professionals to install your septic system.

Doing so significantly reduces these types of occurrences.

  • Blocked Air Vents

Air vents are vital components of the septic system that channel-away or diffuse septic tank gases from homes. When these air vents are blocked, such gases won’t be able to escape.

As such, these gases penetrate through all available openings.

  • Cracked Pipes

Sewer pipes serve as passageways for waste from your home into the septic tank.

However, when these pipes get cracked, they are compromised and won’t serve their function. What results is leakage of awful-smelling septic tank gases into your home.

  • Dry Plumbing

Water plays an important role in the prevention of septic tank gas leakages.

Toilets and drains are designed with a “U” barrier to hold water. When the drains and toilets aren’t used for longer periods of time, such water barriers dry out. This is commonly known as dry plumbing.

With no water barrier present, septic tank gases move freely through the new openings into your home. Luckily, this problem can be resolved by simply running a flush.

  • Clogged Drains

When your drains become clogged, waste is unable to get into the septic tank.

The longer this situation lasts, the worse it becomes! The decomposition of such waste within your drains results in the release of foul-smelling gases.

  • Loose Toilets

All toilets should be tightly fitted to sewer lines to prevent leakage of liquid and gases. Whenever you perceive smelly septic tank gases, consider checking for loose toilets among other areas.

Hazards Of Septic Tank Gases

Septic tank gas exposure leads to a wide range of health issues.

At low levels, apart from its characteristic foul odor, you’re likely to experience fatigue and headaches.

Other common symptoms include vomiting or nausea, light-headedness or dizziness, and poor memory and concentration.

Severe cases of septic tank gas exposure are more deadly. Symptoms include loss of smell, lung, mouth, and throat irritations as well as pink eye & eye irritations. Other severe symptoms include seizures, coma, and possibly death.

These are serious septic tank gas hazards you should try as much as possible to avoid. Your best bet at handling the situation is by preventing it from happening in the first place.

  • What To Do When Perceiving Septic Tank Gases

Whenever you begin to perceive the smell of septic tank gases, immediately aerate your home as much as you can. This should be followed by giving your plumber a call to come over for an inspection and fixing of such issue.

To aerate your home, open all sources of ventilation to allow for a free flow of air. This helps dissipate the foul odor until the problem is resolved.

When faced with severe exposure to such gases, immediately get as far away as possible to areas with fresh air.

Next, call for urgent medical attention.

Your septic system may be having any of the issues mentioned above. The only way to find out is by calling for repairs. The technician or plumber troubleshoots the problem to determine what the underlying issues are.

We’ve seen that septic tank gases are a by-product of bacterial digestive activity on waste. These foul-smelling gases are deadly when inhaled in large volumes.

Whether inhaled in large amounts or not, you should fix the issue as fast as possible.

Related Resources:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *