Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My House Smells Like Sewage with a Twist of Peppermint

UPDATE: The PVC pipe in the concrete for our bathroom rough-in was cracked in half.  Ryan Homes had to chip away the concrete to get to the PVC pipe and fix it.  This resolved the problem. 


I think we have one of the worst problems that can go unresolved... SEWAGE GAS.  It is entering through our basement storage area and dissipating throughout our house.  It happens about every two weeks and last for 3-5 days.  Apparently, atmospheric pressure is causing the pressure to build up in the sewer vents.  This is forcing the gasses to escape from an opening somewhere in my basement storage room.  Note: We have an underground septic tank, not public sewer.     

Initially, I thought the smell was coming from the Chick-Fil-A boxes that we had used to move.  I thought they had oil on them that had gone rancid.  The smell is rotten, just like sewage.  Well, it is sewage.  I unpacked all of the Chick-Fil-A boxes and the smell came back a week later.  It was so bad one night, even with all of the windows open, that we debated on whether it was safe to sleep in the house or not.  The septic gasses flood the basement and make their way all the way to the third floor.  We have been getting by with opening the windows and closing all of the vents for the past few months, but now that the winter months are upon us, it is not practical.

The plumbers and I tried to pinpoint the smell, but it was so overwhelming in the storage area, that we could not pinpoint the exact location.  We narrowed it down to one section of the storage area.  They decided to schedule a peppermint test.  This is where they pour peppermint oil in the sewer gas vent on the roof and wait for the peppermint scent to seep out through the pipe that is not sealed properly.

The day came and the roofer climbed up to the roof while the plumber, service manager and I waited in the storage room.  We heard the peppermint oil being poured down the pipe, followed by a bucket of water.  I started to panic, because I heard it traveling down a pipe next to the heat pump.  The plumber followed the sound and found that the oil was being poured down the radon pipe.  The plumber did not have a second bottle of peppermint oil, so we scheduled a second peppermint test.  While he was at my house, he replaced the wax ring on our powder room toilet.  This toilet sits above our unfinished storage area in the basement.  We were hoping that this was the cause and would solve the problem.

The plumber and roofer returned about 2 weeks later for a second shot at the peppermint test.  The roofer went up and poured the peppermint oil down the correct vent, followed by a bucket of water.  We waited a few minutes and did not smell anything in the basement.  We thought we had passed the test.  That evening, my husband went down to the basement to watch the Redskins play the New York Giants.  He asked me if I smelled the peppermint.  I had not, so I went downstairs and sure enough the basement smelled like peppermint or more like a candy cane factory.  The peppermint scent was the strongest in the storage room, just as the sewage gasses had been.  We kept the storage room door closed, but the scent still made its way upstairs.  I prefer the peppermint smell over sewage, but the peppermint oil is potent and it does not take long to give you a headache.

Back to square one.  I contacted Ryan Homes.  The plumber said that he had never experienced the scent leaking out hours later.  They offered to come back and do a second peppermint test with two bottles of peppermint and hope for instantaneous results.  I let them know that I did not think that would solve the problem.  The peppermint scent is leaking out in my storage room right now and I cannot pinpoint the exact location.  Apparently, this is the first time this has happened to a Ryan Home and it had to happen to me!  Why me, why me, why me???  I Googled "peppermint test sewer gas septic" and came across the following website:
http://www.askthebuilder.com/sewer-gas-smell/
It sounds like I need a "smoke test".  I am going to forward the above website to Ryan Homes and hope for the best.  Here are a few excerpts from the website:

Sewer gas is created by the decomposition of waste materials that are found in public and private sewer systems and private septic systems. The characteristic odor can be overpowering and it is toxic. To add further insult to injury, the gas is explosive as it often has a methane component.
Sewer gas leaks can be quickly discovered by a plumber who owns a very cool machine that generates artificial smoke. The smoke is simply visual and does not create a lasting odor nor does it stain any surfaces in a house. The plumber connects the smoke generation machine to the plumbing drain system and then blocks off the drain pipe leading to the sewer and caps off all roof vent pipes.

Once the smoke machine starts, it begins to slightly pressurize the plumbing system. If there is a cracked pipe or a fitting joint that is loose, the smoke readily exits at that point before it would bubble up through a fixture trap filled with water. Usually the source of the sewer gas leak can be discovered in less than one hour.

Has anyone ever experienced this problem?




Pin It now!

19 comments:

  1. Wow! No I have never had this problem nor heard of any one having this problem. However, one thing I know for sure is that peppermint has a vast majority of healing properties, but I did not know it would cover a problem such as this type. It definitely appears to be very toxic and it seems to me that your entire family has been exposed to these toxins. I would schedule your family for a office/hospital visit to be sure there health has not been compromised. It situations like this it doesn't show up immediately; yet the potential is there. I would also check with your insurance carrier to see if they can cover this claim for many reasons. It should be documented, recorded, noted and filed to avoid any discrepancies should they arise. Maria, I am sorry to hear about this especially in your new home; however, I am more concerned about your families health. I hope they can resolve this sooner rather than later.

    BTW-we were at fault for a very small fire in our home where the smoke fumes caused lots of damage and it cost thousands to have the entire home restored (ducts cleaned out, every electronic appliance taken away for cleaning, all the clothing to the cleaners, thorough cleaning of the house etc etc Luckily, we were covered under our insurance and did not have to pay a penny but I was amazed at the level of work that needed to be done because the toxins had risen from the basement to the top level of the entire house which was a brand new townhouse my husband I had just moved into that we purchased from Ryan Homes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Nadase. Today, I was told again that they can pour 2-3 bottles of peppermint down the vent this time. I told our service manager that it needs to be pressurized or the smell will not come out. He is checking into it.

      Delete
  2. Oh man, this is terrible. I really hope they can get this resolved for you. The Ryan plumbers should be working around the clock to fix this for you. Good luck. :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so too. I called the service line the night that we thought we were going to have to leave the house. The lady that answered told me that someone would call me back. I never heard from anyone until the next day.

      Delete
  3. Wow, I am sorry you are having that problem! I hope they can figure it out and fix it for you quickly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! We cannot continue to open our windows in the winter. The smell is awful and makes us lightheaded when it gets really strong. I am afraid that everything in my basement is going to hold the smell.

      Delete
  4. OH NO! I hope RH gets this resolved and you should go to the doctor!! When we had our walk through there was sewer gases in utility room but they said it was because it wasn't being used. I was worried about it but it has not been a problem. Our old home we had septic and never had problems but you have the sump pump/basement. I just can't imagine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so. They are scheduled to come back next week and pour multiple bottles of peppermint oil down the vent on the roof. Their plumbing contractors do not have the equipment or training to do the smoke test. I would have to pay out of pocket if I get my own contractor.

      Delete
  5. The toxic gas that is being emitted is H2S, better known as hydrogen sulfate. It's very deadly! It killed a shipmate of mine in the Navy in less than 3 minutes. It attacks a persons sense of smell. It smells like rotten eggs at first and when you don't smell it any longer, it's often too late. The gas is heavier than air so you have an advantage point with it being in the basement but if I were you, I would let the builders and plumbers worry about going down to trace the smell if it returns. Let them take their Scott air pack and investigate. Hope it gets resolved soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment. They are scheduled to come back next week to try the peppermint test again.

      Delete
  6. Maria,
    I am so sorry you are having to deal with this in your new home. I hope that RH comes up with a fix to this problem. We have been following your blog for some time now and we just started our build process. We had planned on building a Avalon with RH but foung another local builder that has the same floor plan! Thank your for allowing us to join you on this journey, we are also documenting our build process as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Summer and Kelvin! Please leave your blog address in the comments below, so I can follow you. Good luck!

      Delete
  7. Yea, I had that problem also we have the same configuration as you. It was small at first, but during the last hurricane it got worse. You could smell it through the whole house. I haven't experience it since the last hurricane, but if it comes back I will have to address it.

    I have seen this problem before in builds where I worked at, Fairfax and DC. You would get this awful rotten egg smell at different times throughout the day. facilities management knew what it was, and said there was nothing they can do about it and it was harmless.

    hope you figure out a solution or the cause. If I find something out I will let you know.

    your neighbor
    Jeff
    Eagle Ridge Waldorf,MD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for the the comment. They resolved the problem last week. The PVC pipe that runs into the concrete for our bathroom rough-in was cracked in half. We could not see it, because it was hidden under the concrete. When they did the peppermint test again, one of the plumbers noticed the smell coming out of the concrete. He pulled on the pipe and it came right out of the ground.

      Delete
    2. I am glad they resolved the problem now you can enjoy fresh air in your home.

      Delete
  8. So how was it? Weren’t you a bit disappointed with the service line? I mean, they should always be ready to respond to their customer’s need. Such incident must have been taken care of immediately because sewage gas is very toxic and has hazardous health effects on people.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a friend who once had this problem, but a lot worse. His pipes leaked pretty bad and the water smelled awful, only to find out that his septic tank had some kind of leak as well. I feel sorry for the poor plumber who had to fix it. It's just a good thing that he was very patient and he got the job done very quickly.


    Carmella Vancil

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi,

    I was just wondering if this resolved your issue completely? I'm so sorry that you had to go through all of that. Wonderful blog!! So helpful.

    Jen
    http://buildingourabode.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Not on topic but came across your site as I was searching for how to make my Ryan home look different from others. My biggest complaint is that Ryan elevations don't have much in variety. We built a Waverly in 2001 and have your same elevation!

    ReplyDelete