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Old 05-06-2014, 09:38 PM   #1
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Smell from septic tank


We were out in the yard this evening and noticed a very strong smell from the area over the septic tank. The smell wasn't there last fall and we weren't out there this winter, so I don't know when it started.

Both tanks were emptied 2 or 3 years ago. In the past, we've gone as much as 4 years before having them emptied, so it doesn't seem like they'd be full yet.

What I'm wondering is if the smell could be a sign of a problem that we can't see from above ground. Could there be a crack in the tank that's letting the odor seep up through the ground?

The reason I'm asking about this is that my daycare kids and grand kids play out in the yard a lot and I want to make sure it's safe.

If there is a possibility that there is something wrong, who would I call to have it inspected - a plumber or the septic tank cleaning company?

Barb

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Old 05-06-2014, 10:02 PM   #2
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Smell from septic tank


It's possible there could be something wrong. Many possibilities, as you have suggested, a local qualified septic service should be able to pinpoint your problem.

Is the tank cover sealed/covered with dirt? May just need resealing. Just a thought.

Sorry I couldn't be of much help to you. Stay tuned, others will be along shortly with more advice/suggestions. Thanks.


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Old 05-07-2014, 12:04 PM   #3
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Smell from septic tank


Thank you jmon.

Yes, there is dirt and grass covering the lid. Maybe we need to uncover it and look it over though.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:07 PM   #4
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Smell from septic tank


When was it installed? Since you are in an area that had a lot of Snowfall this past Winter. That can cause the water table to rise, and the soil is most likely so saturated. That the system cannot work properly.

You should take the lid off to see how full the unit is. Post pictures of the area that the tank is and same for the field.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:09 PM   #5
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Smell from septic tank


Barb, sometimes a down draft wind will blow the fumes down from the vent on top of the house and make it seem that the smell is coming from the ground. Check again when the wind is blowing another way or if the smell is there all the time. You might try smelling closer to the ground to see if there is a particular spot it is coming from. JMHO
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Old 05-07-2014, 02:27 PM   #6
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Smell from septic tank


Quote:
Originally Posted by BigJim View Post
Barb, sometimes a down draft wind will blow the fumes down from the vent on top of the house and make it seem that the smell is coming from the ground. Check again when the wind is blowing another way or if the smell is there all the time. You might try smelling closer to the ground to see if there is a particular spot it is coming from. JMHO
If this is the problem, I used sweet filter-
http://www.sweetfilter.com/
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:38 PM   #7
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Smell from septic tank


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If this is the problem, I used sweet filter-
http://www.sweetfilter.com/
Learn something new everyday, I have never seen these.
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:44 PM   #8
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Smell from septic tank


Your first step needs to be to uncover the septic tank lid. The smell could be caused by several problems as already discussed. I recommend having a tank pumped every 3-5 years depending on the amount of usage, type of usage, neglect, garbage disposal, etc. You mentioned 2 tanks. What type of system is it? Is it all gravity fed or do you have a pump system as well? What are the soil conditions? Recent rainfall amounts? I know you may not be able to answer all of these questions in which case a septic professional can better advise on the conditions. Again however, what you can do for starters is dig up the lid, open it up, and post pictures. The sludge and/or scum layers in the tank should not exceed 1/3 of the tank depth. If so, it's time to pump. If the outlet baffle is plugged with solids and not allowing effluent to escape to the drainfield it could be full, overflowing from the tank lid, and leaking into the surrounding soil. Also would need to be pumped then and further investigation (i.e. video inspection of the leach leg may be in order). Just went to an inspection a couple weeks ago in which the leach leg heading out to the drainfield had been cut by a ditch witch when landsapers were putting in a sprinkler system.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:02 PM   #9
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Smell from septic tank


Most people don't understand how a septic tank works. Just as info, a septic tank will normally fill with water within a couple of days of being pumped. When you have a septic tank pumped, the idea is to remove the solids. When waste enters the tank, bacteria break down the solids and convert much of it to liquid. What doesn't get digested settles out as solids. The water circulates through the tank and into the leach field where it soaks into the ground. If a septic tank has no water in it, something has gone wrong.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:48 PM   #10
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Smell from septic tank


Thanks for the replies and useful information guys.

I went out to check for the smell again and it's not there, but I do smell it up closer to the back of the house.

So I called the company that comes out to clean it and explained what's going on. She asked if I've been doing more laundry than usual and I told her yes (my daughter and 3 gr.kids are living with us temporarily) and she said that's probably what's causing it. She explained it, but I don't really understand what she said.
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Old 05-08-2014, 04:28 PM   #11
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Smell from septic tank


Too much water going into the system. What kind of detergent are you using? Are you using only Single-ply Toilet Paper? Is everyone following the whole "Flush if brown, leave if Yellow"?

Shorter showers, hand washing dishes, using Eco Friendly detergent like Ecos may help. Also using Rid-X may work. But it is too late now. You are going to have to empty the tank at this point.

The other is due to you are just now coming out of a bad Winter. The ground is so saturated with ground water. The Leach field probably has no way for the soil to absorb the water coming out of the system until it starts to dry out.
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Old 05-08-2014, 05:00 PM   #12
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Smell from septic tank


We use liquid detergent - whatever is on sale.

I think I will go ahead and have them come out and empty the tanks. It can't hurt to have it done a little early and I'll ask them to check things over at the same time.

Jim, you mentioned the vent up on the roof. My husband just told me that he has noticed the smell out in front of the house too, which makes me think it must have something to do with the vent because the septic tank is behind the house.

Barb
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Old 05-08-2014, 05:07 PM   #13
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Smell from septic tank


Stop using whatever is on sale. We use Ecos for our laundry. Better then Tide and other stuff. You can get a bottle of it from GFS or Sam's Club, for under $15. It is a Coconut Based product, safer for Septic tanks, dye free, etc..

Living with a Septic tank. Means living a lifestyle that you do not treat it like a city sewage system. Your local Public Health & the Michigan State Ag Extension office has a lot of good information on how to keep from having to pump the tank so much.

The Ag Extension office can also tell you how saturated the soil is at the depth of the Leach field, by taking a boring sample. Basically it is pushing a length of steel pipe into the ground, to take the sample.
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Old 05-08-2014, 05:20 PM   #14
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Smell from septic tank


We're not too far from a GFS so I'll pick up some of the Ecos and give it a try. Thanks.

The reason we have it pumped more often than most people is that I do daycare here in my house, so the toilet gets much more use than most houses. One guy from the septic tank pumping company suggested every 2-3 years because of that.

Thanks for the info about the Ag Extension office.
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Old 05-08-2014, 05:44 PM   #15
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Smell from septic tank


You may have to look at a bigger tank or better Leachfield. GFS sells the large containers of it. Make sure you get on their frequent shopper program, if you are not already. $5 off of first $50 purchase.

We started going there, since they are a lot cheaper then Sam's Club for stuff. Their Bananans are a lot cheaper also.

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