There's nothing worse than having problems with sewage and sewer gas inside your home. Sometimes, the cause is obvious: too much flushed down the toilet at once. But, there are times when the cause is not-so-obvious. Here are 3 examples.
Flushable Wipes Stuck in Sewer Pumps
Flushable wipes are being disposed of down toilets. They are made to fit through the drainage system, but end up getting stuck in sewer pumps. The flushable wipes do not disintegrate easily. Also, paper and grease combine with the wipes in the sewer system and create what wastewater treatment plants call polar bears.
Polar bears can become large clumps that challenge the pumps and grinders that force wastewater and sewage through the lines to the wastewater treatment plants. They can wrap around the pumps and cause them to fail. Once a sewer pump has failed, the sewage will back up until repairs are made. When you attempt to flush a toilet in your home, the wastewater likely will not go down the drain at all.
Even though the packaging says the items are flushable, it doesn't necessarily mean the items are easily handled by your local sewer lines, pumps, and the wastewater treatment plant. This is particularly true of older systems that may not have powerful pumps and grinders. It's best to use flushable wipes sparingly.
Sewage Moves Slow Through System
When there are long distances between home connections and sewer pumping stations, the sewage inside the sewer lines can decompose and turn the oxygen within the line to hydrogen sulfide, which is a component of sewer gas. When the sewage stops moving, whether due to a sewer pump failure or tree roots blocking the sewer line, the gas can build up in the system and vent back to your home.
Sometimes, chemicals are used at sewer pump stations to help reduce the amount of the toxic components of sewer gas such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and methane. Any necessary repairs of the pumps and lines will need to be made, of course, but the chemicals help reduce the risks to homeowners connected to the affected lines as well as those who live near the site of the failure.
To keep the gas from backing up into your home, you'll need to keep your drain, waste, and vent system in good condition. This system includes P-traps in your drains and a vent stack, which is usually located on the roof. You'll want to check the vent stack for things like bird nests, snow, leaves and any debris that can block the airflow.
Sinkholes & Sewer Problems
A U.S. Geological Survey says that around 20% of the U.S. is susceptible to sinkhole events. In Youngstown, Ohio, Whitney Avenue residents had sewage in their basements due to an apparent domino effect caused by a collapse of water and sewer lines. The collapse caused a large sinkhole to form, which caused further damage to the water and sewer lines as well as a sewer pump.
If sewage backs up in your basement, you may need to do what Whitney Avenue residents did and shut off your gas and electric. You also may need to replace the large appliances in your basement, such as your hot water heater, furnace, and washer and dryer.
If you have an issue with sewage backup in your basement or sewer gas in your home, it's a good idea to contact your neighbors to see if they are also experiencing the same problem. That way, you'll be able to narrow down whether the problem is on your property or somewhere along the sewer main line. You may need to contact a sewer pump repair company to come out to your property and take a look.