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What is sewer gas?

Sewer gas odor can either be coming from your house septic system or from the sanitary sewer system (a system of underground pipes that carries sewage from bathrooms, sinks, kitchens, and other plumbing components to a wastewater treatment plant where it is filtered, treated and discharged). If at any time you notice a foul smell your home, it could be sewer gas.

Sewer gas is an intricate blend of non-toxic and toxic gasses which can exist at fluctuating levels dependent on the cause. Sewer gas is formed through the deterioration of household waste, usually the anaerobic decay of sewage and sludge.

Sewer gas is made up of mostly methane, which has no odor — however it is more or less always combined with other gasses.  The most common gas being hydrogen sulfide, otherwise known as H2S. Sometimes sewer gas also contains carbon dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen, hydrogen dioxide and sulfur. Methane gas can displace oxygen, particularly in a restricted space, and can be lethal.

This hydrogen sulfide gas comes from rotting organic material, but can also be formed by human and animal waste. When at low levels, it has a heavy odor comparable to rotten eggs. In normal conditions, hydrogen sulfide has no color, and is a flammable gas. Aside from the unpleasant odor, sewer gas can be dangerous, particularly over a lengthy period.

Fortunately, we can usually smell H2S at very low levels, which is below what can be toxic.  So, if you smell gas, it does not always mean that you will become sick. Though, at high levels, you can become overcome by this gas, and lose your ability to smell it. At high levels, hydrogen sulfide gas can make you sick and may possibly be deadly. Having said that, even though H2S is a toxic gas, it will not generally harm you at the concentrations which exist in a house with sewer gas odor complications.  Typically, not enough gas is produced in your sewer for concentrations to be at a dangerous level in the home.

For these reasons, you should never go into your septic tank. This is a job best left to a qualified professional. If you believe that your tank needs an inspection, call Saviour Septic, LLC. We have the appropriate training, equipment, and knowledge to get the job done safely.