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Phil
Phil, Mechanical Engineer.
Category: Plumbing
Satisfied Customers: 5685
Experience:  Retired mech. contractor, shop owner, 51 yrs experience.
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I have been in a house almost a year and have been battling

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I have been in a house almost a year and have been battling a sewage odor that seems to be coming from my sewage ejector pump in the basement. The inital problem was very strong odor. I was amazed that this pit could put off that much odor given that we almost never use the toilet down there (maybe twice a month) and 99% of what goes through the pit is just soapy water from the shower. I then had a plumber re-seal the top of the system. Then had him do a smoke test and the lid and the pipes leading in and out were all smoke free. The smell problem dramatically improved. But I am left with about 5% of the the same smell problem and it is still enough to bother me. It is coming from the corner where the ejector pit is. The interesting thing is that when we did the smoke test we did it by pumping smoke into the vent that comes out of the ejector pit and that goes straight up above the roof line. When we did that we noticed that smoke was puring out of the main stack vent over on the other side of the roof. What follows is what I think the setup is behind my finished basement walls (I have checked what follows with the previous owner and he believes it is correct. In my basement against one wall going from left to right is a utility room with washing machine and utility sink, to the right of that is a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower, and then the sewage ejector pit in the right hand side corner. The main stack of the house runs down the same wall between the utility room and the bathroom. The utility room drains to the main stack. The bathroom drains to the pit. The pit pumps up and over to the main stack. the pit also has a vent that runs virtually straight up and above the roof line. The part that suprised me is that all of the fixtures (including the utility room fixtures) vent to a single pipe that runs all the way from the washing machine on the left all the way to the right hand corner to join up with the ejector pit vent. So when we pumped smoke into the pit vent on the roof I think the smoke goes down the pit vent, across this long vent pipe to the utility room down to the utility room wet drain line which connects to the main stack -- smoke then goes up the main stack and out the main stack vent out the roof. This explains why I was amazed at the amount of odor the pit could put off -- it has a circuitous connection to the sewer system. Does this sound like a proper venting setup? If I were to do it I think I would have had the utility room vent up above the level of the utility room fixtures to the main stack. Then have all of the bathroom just vent to the pit vent line. Then the utility room would drain and vent to the main stack and the bathroom would drain to the pit and vent out the same dedicated line coming out of the pit. My current setup, in my opinion, puts alot of unnecessary hope and expectations on the ejector pit and its venting (and on the traps and plumbing in the bathroom) that they will work perfectly and keep out gases from the main sewer line when I could just completely separate the bathroom and the pit from the main sewer system altogether. Thoughts and help very much appreciated.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Plumbing
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.

Welcome to Just Answer !

 

From the sound of it you understand the issue pretty well.... however if the pit and its vent are tight, isolating it from the rest of the plumbing may very well not solve the problem.. the odor could be coming from bad venting elsewhere in the system

 

You and I will have to mull this over for a while.

 

Can you tell me if the pit accumulates any water from the rest of the system when the toilet is not in use? can we plug the pipe connected to the pit that allowed smoke to the main vent stack as a test? If so, tell me what size that pipe is what it is made of please

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

Customer: replied 1 year ago.


The pit only accumulates water from the bathroom fixtures (toilet, sink, shower). I have never heard the pump kick on or water draining to the pit unless one of these is being used.


 


Getting access to any of these pipes is difficult/costly as the basement is fully finished. I had on opportunity to feel around behind the walls a few months ago when we replaced the utility sink and was able to get shoulder deep and feel around pretty good. That is when I confirmed for myself tha the utility room was draining to the main stack but venting to the pit vent. But would probably do the test you have in mind before I get to point of ripping out major drywall. The damage would be more isolated in doing the test.


 


All venting pipe discussed is 2.5 inches in diameter, PVC pipe.


 


One other thing I forgot to mention is that after I got the lid fixed I was somewhat convnced that the odor must be some funky mold problem behind the walls. I even did cut into some drywall in various areas and it is bone dry beind these walls. Since then, on three occassions we have gone out of town for two weeks or more and the smell is 100% completely gone when we get back. It comes back over the first few days back and is pretty much constant after that. That is what convinces me we are dealing with a sewer gas problem and not some funky mold problem. If it were mold it wouldnt go away like that. Definately associated with living in and using the house. Those two week periods have been in the summer, fall and winter. So it doesnt seem to be associated with the gas boiler (which we also had checked for leaks and we are OK there). Only thing left in my mind is a sewer gas issue. Plus it smells to me just like the smell we had when the lid was leaking, only much less now.


 


While we think about solutions or tests, i wonder if you think there is anything technically wrong with the setup I described. In other words If all aspects were airtight on it, would it still be a potential problem? I can find guys on the internet saying stuff like "your ejector pit MUST have a dedicated vent that doesnt connect with anything else." But you know how that goes...I can find guys on the internet saying they own a square triangle too.


 


 

Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.

Hello again, its a sticky issue since we cannot see the piping, its condition or any design errors.

 

 

How hard would it be to put a deep trap in the pit pump discharge line, and possibly fit a sewage rated check valve in between the pump and the trap,

 

Phil

 

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The sewage ejector line has a sewer rated check valve on it already. It seams to work well and gives a good thump when the pump is done pumping. I've listened carefully and I dont here any signs of stuff from the sewage line flowing back into the pit. The check valve is about 1- 2 feet above the lid of the pump. I suppose we could look into a deep trap on that sewage over to the main stack. Not sure the purpose of it when the existing check valve seems to do a good job from preventing gasses coming back and fluids into the pit.
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.

Hello again.

 

Since smoke is getting past the pit and to the main vent stack, we can be fairly sure that the check valve is not closing completely tight. Thats one way to look at it.

 

If the pit discharge line is connected to the top of the of the main waste line, or the vent stack, sewage would not flow back to the pit through the leaking check valve, but sewer gases would.

 

Lets think about that for a bit.... replacing the check valve has maybe a 90% chance of solving the problem. A trap on second thought would not solve the problem and could solidify in time,

 

 

 


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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I do not think your first statement is correct that smoke getting past the pit and to the main stack is evidence that the check valve not stopping sewage gas from getting into the pit. The description in the first email describes a path from inside the pit to out the main stack that does not require going through the check valve. If I were smoke sitting inside the pit, I can start up the pit vent but take a left at the point where the long vent line from the utility room hooks up to the pit vent line. I can travel that long vent line all the way to the utility room. Then go south down the utility sink vent to the point where it hooks up with the utility sink wet drain line. From there I follow that drain line to where it hooks to main stack. So there is a way to go from pit to main stack that does not involve the check valve. This fact is actually my main concern. Sewer gas with constant access to my pit. If you add to this that any pit both expels air as it fills with liquid AND SUCKS IN AIR when the pit pump kicks on, means my pit is probably sucking at least some of it's air from the route I describe, the rest coming from what it can suck in from the part of the pit vent that goes up to the outside above the roof.

As I am writing this I am wondering if I could plug the long vent line from the utility room just prior to the point where it hooks into the vertical pit vent line. That would break the route I described. Question is whether this creates problems for the venting for the bathroom fixtures.
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.

Hello again, thanks for the clarification on the smoke route from the pit to the main vent stack.

 

Its a bit complex... i think I might have a better idea now however. Tell me if this seems accurate.

 

Your sinks are currently connected to both the main stack vent and the pit vent line by means of a tee in the vent line.

 

If that is correct you should be able to cut and cap the vent line from the sinks to the main stack as you have suggested...and the sinks should vent adequately via the vent line from the pit. ...IF... the line slopes continuously down from the sinks to the tee on the pit vent line.

 

You can try cutting the line from the sinks that runs to the main vent stack and fitting two pipe caps but without glue... then fill and drain the sinks. If everything works that way... then glue the caps on.

 

If that fails you can fit a compression type repair coupling in the line you cut to restore that function if you have to.

 

Let me know, we can go from there

 

 


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.

Phil, Mechanical Engineer.
Category: Plumbing
Satisfied Customers: 5685
Experience: Retired mech. contractor, shop owner, 51 yrs experience.
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