When you hear a homeowner say they have septic tank odor problems we all assume that the problem is the septic tank is full and needs to be pumped out.  But what really causes septic odors are Gases within a septic system.  These septic gases such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane within a home, yard or septic area can be irritating, toxic and explosive. In a yard they are not typically found in high enough concentrations to be dangerous, but are still a nuisance.

 There are several locations within a septic system where odor can be an issue


1. Sink and tub drains in the Home

 2. Septic Tank

 3. Leach Field and Drain Field areas

 4. Yard

 Odors in the Home

Septic odors inside your home are annoying and can create a health problem. Odors in a home are typically an indication of a plumbing problem. A very common problem is the drying out of a trap in a basement floor drain allowing gases from the septic tank to vent back into the home. This can be corrected by making sure all floor drain traps are periodically filled with water. Also, the cleanout access plug inside a drain may be loose and could allow for sewer gas to escape. A plumber or septic professional that provides line cleaning could check this out.

 A second common problem is the plumbing vent located on the roof. It is necessary to allow the pressure in the drainpipes to equalize as wastewater flows through them. Without this vent, sinks, tubs, and toilets would gurgle, traps dry out and nasty odors come into the home. These plumbing vents can freeze closed during prolonged cold periods or get clogged with leaves or other debris. A warm day or two will thaw out the frozen pipes but leaves will need to be cleaned out. The pipe can be unfroze using a jetter or warm water. Always take special precautions when working on a slippery or steep roof.

 A third common plumbing problem is an improperly sealed cover on an ejector sump pump basket in the basement. The cover should be checked and a new seal applied to prevent leaks.

 Odors Near the Septic Tank

An occasional weak odor near the septic tank may be quite normal but if there is a particularly strong odor around the septic tank(s) the first step should be to make sure all manholes and risers are securely covered. Typically a concrete lid covers the tank manhole, although other materials such as plastic and metal lids are used. The septic tank manhole can be covered with a maximum of 12” of soil or can come to the surface, while any manhole on a tank with a pump must come to surface to allow for repair or replacement of the pump. The newer plastic lids have a rubber seal which helps keep odors in the tank. They must also be properly secured in place with lag screws or other fasteners. If a concrete lid is leaking odors out of the manhole, weather stripping or other materials can be used to create a temporary seal that will contain odors but still allow for proper maintenance of the tank. This seal will need to replaced after maintenance.

 Odors Near your Leach Field Area

If there are strong septic odors in the soil treatment area (around an in-ground drain field, bed or mound), it can indicate a problem with the leach field. All pipes should be inspected and checked out to make sure the pipes are not broken or crushed and that roots have not grown into the pipes causing blockages. A visual inspection of the entire area should be performed to determine if there are any wet spots or soggy soil areas indicating that sewage is coming to the surface. If any of these conditions are found, humans and animals can come in contact with it. This is considered an “imminent health threat” and should be corrected immediately.

 Odors in the Yard

 If the yard in general smells of septic odors, it may be that the plumbing vent pipe (described in # 1 above) on your house or a neighbor’s house needs to be extended to diffuse the smelly odors. Homes located in rural areas, valleys, forested or low areas may not have appropriate wind patterns to carry the odors away from the living areas and the yard. As the wind blows over the house, the air currents that are supposed to carry the gases up and away can instead carry the sewer gas down into the yard. Extending the vent pipe can help diffuse the odors carrying them away from the yard. Carbon filters can also be placed on the top of the vent to help control septic odor. The filters do need to be changed regularly (every 1 to 5 years) to be effective.


Septic Backup – Tips for Dealing with a Clog

Septic Back Up – Tips for Dealing with a Clog

Having a septic back up in your home can really be disgusting; in fact, it’s downright dangerous due to contaminates in the water. If the problem is really out of hand, you’ll need a professional to remedy it, but understanding how it happens can help you to avoid it in the first place.

Septic Back Up, Roots and Other Obstructions

Quite often, tree roots will grow through, brake, and/or obstruct a pipe. There are products that you can use to get rid of them. Some of these products are dangerous to handle, so be careful with them and be sure you get any protective equipment that the container calls for you to use. Products that attack roots in a system back up will frequently wipe out your good bacteria colonies, so you’ll want to use Crystal Clear Septic Treatment to revitalize these bacteria.

Other obstructions sometimes end up causing a backup as well. In these cases, grease poured down the sink while it’s still hot may be causing it. Sanitary napkins or paper towels that were flushed down the toilet might be causing the back up, or it may be emanating from a range of other common causes like these. Whether it’s roots or kitchen grease, mechanical devices are sometimes the most effective tools for getting rid of obstructions.


Sometimes, the fastest way to get a back up taken care of is to have it removed by someone with a drain snake appropriate for the job. These are usually powered devices that have a spinning blade at the end of them as a regular drain snake wouldn’t be powerful enough to break up the clog.

The plumber will usually want to send a camera down the line so that they can find the source of your problem. They’ll then send their auger device down the drain and destroy the blockage. This usually gets things flowing out of the house and back down to the septic tank in short order. They may have to destroy several blockages to get rid of the back up.

Once the blockage is cleared, you can start employing some good maintenance habits to prevent problems in the future by using Crystal Clear Septic Treatment.

Good Maintenance

Using Crystal Clear Septic treatment introduces microbes into the septic tank to keep the level of waste in the tank down. You should also make sure you have your tank pumped on a regular basis. This is one of the best ways to be sure sewage never ends up in the house.

Be sure Not to Flush any of those items that aren’t good for your septic tank because they are most likely guaranteed to cause a problem for you in the future.


Clogg Septic Lines – Causes and Solutions

A clogged septic line can refer to multiple situations. For the most part, sewage in the yard is the major symptom of all these problems


The line from the house to the tank is clogged or damaged

If the line is clogged, then your toilets and drains will overflow, and you’ll simply need to hire a plumber with a rooter tool who can push the clog through the line. If the line is damaged, you’ll notice sewage in the yard close to the house, and you’ll have to hire a contractor to dig up and replace the line. Both of these are rare problems.

If a large amount of water goes through the system at one time, then sludge and scum can flow into the drain field: During heavy rains the drain field may have a sewage smell because the ground can’t absorb both the rain and effluent from the house. There may not be an actual clog; however, excess water from the house can cause a true clog. Having house guests or draining a hot tube too quickly can reduce retention time inside the tank leading to line clogging. Having the tank pumped before house guests come should insure enough capacity and draining the hot tube in stages should both help to keep the retention time up.

The line from the tank to the drain field or distribution boxes is damaged

Running cars or machinery over the fragile distribution lines can crush them leading to a backup. Similarly, accidently paving or building on top of the distribution box or lines can also cause problems.

Tree Roots of trees growing too close to the drain field can unbalance the distribution box, break distribution lines, or cause poor absorption of effluent.

The most common problem is the tank being too full leading to decreased retention time and sludge and scum flowing out into the drain field

Not pumping the tank often enough, putting too much in the garbage disposal, or using too many harsh chemicals can all cause it to become too full. The first two are obvious, but it’s important to remember that the tank relies on bacteria to constantly digest the sludge. Harsh chemicals can kill off your helpful bacteria causing sludge levels to rise much more quickly than usual.


If you haven’t had your tank pumped in several years, the first step is to get it pumped. In most areas, pumping costs between $200 and $300. Just having it pumped might fix the issue.

If the septic line still seems to be clogged, be sure there aren’t any trees whose roots could be interfering with the line. If there are, it’ll probably be best to cut down the tree and use a root killer product.

If the problem continues, then you probably have damaged your tank bacteria, and/or your distribution lines are actually clogged with small solids and grease. It’s easy to damage your helpful bacteria by putting too many harsh chemicals down the drain. These helpful bacteria are constantly digesting sludge so that it doesn’t build up too quickly. On the other hand, it’s easy to clog the distribution lines, by putting too much down the garbage disposer and not having a lint filter for your washing machine. For either of these situations, use Crystal Clear Septic Treatment; it contains billions of bacteria and enzymes that help breakdown grease and almost anything else that’s causing the problem.

If you follow all these suggestions and still have a clogged septic line, then it’s probably time to call in an inspector to tell you where the issue is.


Check this Out – What NOT to flush down your toilet!

Your Septic System is not meant to be used as a Trash Can, so…

DO NOT FLUSH these items down your toilet:

  • baby wipes
  • dental floss
  • feminine hygiene products
  • condoms
  • diapers
  • cotton swabs
  • cigarette butts
  • matches
  • coffee grounds
  • cat litter
  • paper towels
  • napkins
  • medications
  • paints, pesticides, or other hazardous chemicals into your system


In other words, nothing BUT septic safe toilet paper, should be flushed into your septic system



Septic System Failure – Finding the Cause

Septic System Failure – Finding the Cause

There are two main signs of septic system failure:

1. Water backing up into the showers, bathtub, other drains and toilets not flushing.

2. Sewage rising to the surface somewhere in the yard.

Failure usually occurs in either the tank or field.

It’s important to remember that there are different degrees of system failure. Your system could seem to be failing but still be easily fixed because there are a variety of failure causes. In other words, you could have a temporary and inexpensive issue, or a more permanent and expensive problem.


Here are step-by-step instructions for finding the cause:

1.  Homeowners can jump to conclusions and think there’s a failure if one or more drains are backed up. Be sure to check all drains in the house. If multiple drains are backed up but some still work, there might be a clog in a main drain branch inside the house. If all the drains are backed up…

2.  Open the tank. If the tank is not flooded, you can check drains inside the house, one at a time, to see where the clog is, and you know that the issue is somewhere between the house and the tank. If the tank is flooded, then check the outlet tee. If the outlet tee doesn’t appear to be clogged or broken…

3.  You’ll have to either run a plumber’s snake through and/or dig up the tightline (pipe between the septic tank and the drain field). This line frequent breaks do to settling of the heavy concrete tank. If the tightline isn’t clogged or broken…

4.  The problem is probably the dreaded failed drain field.


Identifying Cause Based on Symptoms

The common sense approach…consider the “symptoms” of the system. Where is the problem and how bad is it? Use the table below to help answer these questions:

No Drains Backed Up

Drains Backed Up Sometimes

Drains Backed Up Completely

No Effluent in Yard

Partial clog in house drain, line to septic, or tightline (pipe from tank to field), tank nearly full, distribution box damage or shifting

Severe clog in house, severe clog in line to septic, severe outlet tee clog, severe tightline clog, tank full

Effluent close to house sometimes

Roots intruding in line from house to tank, partial break of line from house to tank, crack in tank

Partial break/root intrusion in line to tank

Complete break/root intrusion in line to tank

Effluent close to house always/flooding

Large crack in tank

Complete break/root instrusion in line to tank, break in line from house/tank junction

Complete break/root intrusion in line to septic

Effluent further from house sometimes

Partial break/root intrusion in tightline, distribution box shifting/damage, partial drainfield failure

Distribution box shifting/damage, distribution lines clog/damage, partial drain field failure

(Unlikely) Severely clogged distribution lines, partial or complete drain field failure

Effluent further from house always/flooding

Complete break/root intrusion in tightline,   severe distribution box shifting/damage, complete drain field failure

(Unlikely) Distribution box shifting/damage,   distribution lines clog/damage, complete drain field failure

(Unlikely) Complete drain field failure

A couple points to keep in mind: (1) The system is meant to be a water tight until it reaches the distribution pipes in the drain field; some of the above conclusions might not make sense without realizing this.(2) You could have more than one issue. For example, you might have a crack in the tank cause effluent close to house sometimes, and a partially clogged line to septic causing drains to be backed up sometimes.(3) It’s unlikely to have the yard completely flooded away from the house and drains completely blocked because the yard being flooded implies that effluent is exiting the house.(4) Since all these observations are judgment calls (difference between sometimes/always and close/further from house), this table is only meant to be guidelines in how to think about issues and isn’t meant to replace the advice of a licensed professional.