A septic tank is a type of wastewater treatment system that uses anaerobic bacterial digestion and a small amount of chlorine to break down organic solid wastes, making them safe for disposal into the ground. The process is very different from the aerobic biological treatment found in municipal sewage treatment plants or other large-scale operations. However, this means that there are unique risks associated with such systems as some fumes can be more harmful than those produced by larger treatment facilities. Here we will discuss how these fumes may make you sick and what you need to know about their use and installation.
Can Septic Tank Fumes Make Me Sick?
Many people consider the smell of poop to be objectionable; however, bodily waste themselves can often produce far worse odors than all but the most fragrant dump.
Septic tank-type wastes are never safe to enter into or come into contact with. The contents of a septic tank are essentially concentrated waste that may still contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and can release noxious gases even when treated. A typical septic system holds the contents of only one household at any given time while large-scale wastewater treatment facilities are designed to handle much larger numbers of people often living in close quarters. This means that there are significant differences between the types of fumes produced by each system.
The unique smells associated with septic tanks are largely due to hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) released during the anaerobic digestion process used by these systems to break down organic waste. H2S is a highly corrosive gas with low odor thresholds which can cause health problems when inhaled in small quantities.
This nasty smelling byproduct of the septic system has no color and will often resemble a faint, gray cloud at the base of a poorly maintained tank and may even be visible near drainage lines. If you notice this type of emissions around your tank or any nearby vegetation it may be time for an inspection to ensure that all safety precautions are taken during operation and maintenance.
When Should I Call a Professional?
The telltale signs of septic tank fumes should not go ignored as they can be quite dangerous if inhaled in large enough quantities. However, these gases are usually only dangerous when released into the open as the large majority of septic systems are not designed to vent such gases directly into occupied spaces.
However, if you notice any signs of concentrated H2S emissions around your system we would recommend contacting a professional immediately; especially if any neighbors have recently started experiencing similar symptoms and concerns about their own wastewater treatment options.
Fumes from septic systems can be quite dangerous and will often resemble that of rotten eggs or sewage; however, this is usually only when the tank’s vents are poorly maintained and release such fumes directly into enclosed areas. If you notice any unusual smells around your system don’t hesitate to contact a professional for inspection and maintenance, as your health (and safety) may depend on it! Give our New England Septic Pros a call today to make sure you