A sewer leak is one of the most dreaded household plumbing malfunctions. Though most modern homes have preventative measures already in place, pipes can degrade or get damaged over time, creating prime conditions for a leak. If you regularly experience household mold, strange odors, slow draining, extra foliage growth with no alternative explanation, or cracks in the foundation of your home, it’s time to call a plumber. You may be dealing with a sewer leak.
The unpleasant eau de excrement odor aside, a sewer leak can be quite dangerous to your health and your home alike. The consequences of neglecting a leak, aside from being unsanitary, can lead to some serious issues for your home and well-being. Read on below to learn more about some of the most common dangers of a sewer leak.
Poisonous Sewer Gas
When human waste breaks down, it forms a byproduct known as sewer gas. Sewer gas is composed of several chemicals, including ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. This smelly gas is often identified as smelling like rotten eggs – but is it toxic?
The answer is yes and no. In low concentrations, sewer gas is foul but not necessarily harmful. At higher concentrations, or if you are exposed for a long period of time, you may experience symptoms of sewer gas poisoning. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to serious health issues for household residents, including pets. This is why, if you suspect a leak, it’s crucial to call a plumber immediately.
Ammonia is a toxic chemical at high levels. Low to moderate exposure can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. High levels of ammonia can cause death in humans.
Hydrogen sulfide is one of the main components of sewer gas. Research shows that hydrogen sulfide is toxic to the organ systems of the body – meaning that exposure can lead to organ damage and death.
While carbon dioxide and methane are not inherently harmful to humans, you do not want these gases hanging around in the air that you breathe. Methane alone is highly flammable. In combination with ammonia (which is also flammable), these gases are a serious fire hazard.
If you suspect sewer gas exposure, contact a medical professional and an emergency plumber immediately.
Old or damaged pipes can crack, rust, degrade, and eventually seep into nearby groundwater. This worst-case scenario can contaminate your water supply. What’s worse, if your neighborhood uses aquifers for groundwater, contamination can occur on a much larger scale. An entire neighborhood could suffer poisoning from one cracked line.
The health consequences of drinking water contaminated with sewage cannot be understated. Even healthy individuals may experience disabling gastrointestinal problems, stomach cramping, dehydration, developmental problems, reproductive problems, or death. Such consequences can be avoided by having your plumbing checked approximately every two years. It’s just not worth the risk of skipping essential maintenance.
Sewer leaks can cause the foundation of your home to crack as well. As water or sewage leaks pool in various areas of your home, it can cause the ground to shift. All of this erodes at your home’s foundation from the bottom up, which can cause cracks in the foundation and even buckle your patios or driveways.
Water damage is also a common side effect of a sewer leak. If your septic tank is located close to your home, or if the leak is severe enough, you may experience flooding and water damage to your house. Water alone can cause serious structural damage to a home, but the chemicals and hazardous byproducts from natural waste can make that damage much more severe. Drywall can give out, mold can form, and, ultimately, supports can even become unstable. A bad leak can leave a house almost uninhabitable if left alone for long enough.
If you choose to neglect your leaking sewer, you may as well tape a sign to your window that declares “PESTS WELCOME.” Sewer leaks can attract a host of unwanted vermin. Rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and chipmunks naturally search for hidden sources of water away from prying eyes. Drippy pipes are naturally enticing. If you provide a convenient water source in the form of a leak, expect to see (or hear) some crawly new friends.
That includes insects! Cockroaches, mosquitoes, ants, spiders, and termites are just a few of the insects that are commonly attracted to standing water and sewer leaks. These sneaky insects often build whole colonies before they’re ever noticed. Maintaining your pipes is an easy way to prevent such animals and insects from invading your home.
Increasing Water Bill
If your water bill has been steadily increasing and your house smells funny, you may be paying for a sewer leak. All of that water not only damages your home, but it can put a serious dent in your wallet too. A moderate water leak can cause you to waste 6,000 gallons of water per month. That’s an incredible waste of water and money.
And remember – all of that leaking water is seeping into the foundation of your home, creating the prime conditions for mold and mildew.
These serious dangers are not something to put off. Neglecting your leaking sewer can cause damage to your home and your health. The best way to avoid these problems is to solve them before they arrive by way of prevention. You should never attempt to fix a serious plumbing problem on your own. It could be a real safety hazard and you may accidentally cause more damage. A licensed plumber will have the proper equipment and expertise to repair your sewer. Additionally, a licensed plumber should regularly inspect your home’s plumbing system at least every two years, and more often if problems arise.
When You Need a Plumber
Here at Palo Alto Plumbing, our licensed plumbers can solve anything between a drippy faucet and a cracked sewer pipe. Our detail-oriented and knowledgeable plumbers can ensure your household’s health and safety by providing quality services. Don’t let a fixable leak destroy your home. Contact us at 650-405-3052 or fill out a contact form on our website to chat with one of our representatives about all of your plumbing needs!