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  • Writer's pictureIn-Pipe Technology

What Causes Septic Tank Smells?

Septic tank smells are caused by a combination of factors. When wastewater from sinks, showers, and toilets enters the septic tank, it breaks down into sludge and liquid causing septic tank smells. This process produces gases such as ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide which give off an unpleasant odor.

As the sludge builds up over time, it’s more difficult for wastewater to exit the tank through the drain field which can cause backflow. When this happens, odors from the septic tank can escape through plumbing vents and other small openings in the tank or soil around it, which contributes to the cause of septic tank smells.


Here are five main factors that contribute to septic tank smells:


1. Overflowing Tank: A septic tank that is filled to capacity or overflowing will cause an unpleasant smell. This can be caused by excess water added to the system, such as from a heavy rain or flooding. It can also be the result of too much waste being added to the system or not enough regular maintenance such as pumping out solids that build up and cause septic tank smells.


2. Sewage Backup: When a septic tank is too full it can cause sewage backflow into the home through drains and toilets, emitting a strong sewage smell. Regularly pumping out the tank is key to avoiding this problem and to keep septic tank smells at bay.



3. Malfunctioning Septic Pump: The septic pump helps keep wastewater flowing through the system and out of the home, so if it isn’t functioning properly it may cause odors in the home due to wastewater refluxing into the living area - make sure to avoid this from happening to avoid severe septic tank smells.


4. Leaking Septic Pipes: If waste pipes between the septic tank and drain field become cracked or broken, this can cause septic tank smells and strong odors due to leaking raw sewage near your home's foundation, which is typically smelly and hazardous to your health.


5. Dysfunctioning Aerator/Aerobic System: Aerators are used in some systems to help reduce odor by injecting oxygen into wastewater before it enters a drain field for further treatment, but when these become clogged or not functioning properly they may allow odors and septic tank smells from raw sewage into your home's air supply, creating an unpleasant smell in your living areas.



Furthermore if solids accumulate too quickly in the septic tank they can clog up drainage lines leading to backflow that carries odors out into your yard or home. If you have a weak seal on your septic system lid or lack of pressure this could also be a contributing factor to septic tank smells emanating from the tank.


Lastly, seasonal weather conditions like extreme heat or cold can contribute to septic tank smells because these temperatures can speed up the decomposition process and create more gas than usual. For more odor facts from In-Pipe Technology, click here to learn more.

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