Ongoing sewage smell

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Neal Arnold 1 month, 2 weeks ago.

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    Jo Ann Redmond

    The Archdiocese has been experiencing an ongoing issue with a sewage smell in certain parts of our rehabbed building for several years. The smell is not constant, but does seem to be more active when the summer sun is hitting the building. Although we are having the issue right now during the winter months. We have smoke bombed the building twice to make sure there are no breaks in any of the sewage lines. None were found. Being an older building that was once a seminary….there were plenty of restrooms in the facility that were taken out when we remodeled. At this point we believe that the smell could be caused by a sewage pipe that was not properly closed off during the rehab. Short of ripping the place apart, does anyone have any ideas on how we might be able to track down the culprit? Thanks for any light you might be able to shed on this matter.
    Jo Ann Redmond
    Director of Administration
    Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA


    Robert A Palisch

    Joann, my experience has been that the main culprit is floor drains that have dried out. Newer installations have trap primers that add water, but just make sure there is water in them. Another item may be if the building is negatively pressured, you may be pulling air from a tunnel or somewhere outside and that is where the odor is coming from.


    Bill Zoeller

    Jo Ann,

    I am not saying this is your issue, but we had a similar occurrence in one of our renovated buildings that may be worth you looking in to as a possible source.

    It took us forever to nail this down, but finally came to the the conclusion that it was in the new self contained roof top package HVAC units used during the renovation. At first we thought it was the vent stack pipe for the plumbing not being tall enough and when the wind was just right it would intake those fumes. We extended the vent pipe and found no success. After a great deal of research and the problem persisting for several months, we discovered a possible cause “Dirty Sock Syndrome”. In a nut shell, a micro-organism grows on the A-coil in the HVAC unit, which are now typically made of porous recycled materials. The heating portion of the HVAC unit does not heat up enough to eradicate the micro-organism and it thrives until it does get to a destructive temperature, if ever. We had them cleaned professionally and it resolved the issue for several months, but it returned. We are now learning the only way to prevent it, is to coat the A-coil via a dipped coating process to eliminate the porousness of its surfaces. This means it has to be taken out, sent off for to be dipped and reinstalled. We can’t be down for 2 to 3 weeks while it is being coated, so our plan of attack is to buy one new A-coil, send it out to be coated and install it upon return. (Fortunately, the other units are of like same size, make and model) We will then leap frog the process until they are all coated and replaced.


    charles kluger

    We had experienced the same issue on a remodel and it was the lack of functional trap primers in the floor drains. Once we repaired the trap primers the smell was no longer an issue . Try pour water down the drain as a temporary solution.

    Chuck Kluger, AIA


    Neal Arnold

    I also, have this intermittent problem. I have given it much thought, my latest thought is previous restroom vent (fan or no) may still exist and not blocked off. Let me know if you find a resolve. Thanks Neal

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