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what can be done about H2S?

 
Betty Lamb
Posts: 62
Location: Vancouver Island, Zone??
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Hello,

I was covering a bunch of black water that is seeping out of the septic tank with branches and leaves whatever I could find, and I got sickened from Hydrogen Sulphide. It even stuck to my clothes.

Does anyone know of any solutions for this? There has to be something that can be done, it's just like the most deadly gas ever...
 
John Elliott
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You're right, it can be deadly, but it is reversible and with clean air, the problems go away.

I take it your question is not about the immediate medical effects, but how to take care of the black water problem. First thing is to get the septic back to proper functioning. It is supposed to be anaerobic inside, hence stinky and full of H2S, but the tank is supposed to contain it and allow slow anaerobic fermentation to degrade the wastes and release the water slowly to the leach field. If it is not doing that, it is time to get it pumped.

Hydrogen sulfide is flammable, producing water and sulfur dioxide as combustion products, and SO2 is a bit less of a problem than H2S is. But while putting a candle on top of the stinky leak will remove the H2S as it escapes, it is not solving the underlying problem.

Most metals react with H2S to form sulfides; this is what causes metals to tarnish over time. If you throw some steel wool on top of the black water seepage, that should scavenge a lot of the H2S before it hits your nose and eyes.

As far as removing the stink from clothing, try soaking the item in water with a lot of shiny pennies added. The clean copper surface will scavenge any H2S molecules that are hanging around.

 
Betty Lamb
Posts: 62
Location: Vancouver Island, Zone??
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I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what plants absorb gas? Maybe they would work on the H2S in my yard (!!!) I forgot to mention that the septic has been pumped recently, BUT there has been a lot of rain so the water table is really high, the yard is more like a swamp. I don't think the septic can drain properly.

Because the area I live is in a dead zone H2S has been a growing problem, I think it's more than just the septic. There are public warnings about evacuating areas where you smell that rotten egg smell and call 911.

Here is some interesting info about the dead zone:

http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/education-and-outreach/additional/science-focus/ocean-color/dead_zones.shtml

of you scroll down to the last picture that arrow is pointing right to where I live, the Saanich Inlet. No oxygen in the water = H2S plumes....


 
John Elliott
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Ah-ha! I knew there was more to the story than just a leaky septic tank.

Because the area I live is in a dead zone H2S has been a growing problem


It's important to note that this is a man-made problem (excess of nutrients being flushed into the ocean) and so it is going to need some active, man-made intervention to solve it. This is not something with a natural, holistic solution like the right planting to absorb the gas.

What needs to be done is to oxygenate the water. Think giant aquarium air pumps with bubbler stones, oxygenating the water. This is what it is going to take to defeat the anaerobic bacteria and bring the area back to life. The next question is what scale does it need to be done on? If this is just on your own property, you can probably correct the problem with a good size aquarium air pump. If the volume of water involved is more than a couple hundred gallons though, you may need to upsize to a regenerative blower. There are two important specs when choosing a regenerative blower: the volume of airflow, usually measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm) and the maximum pressure, measured in inches (inches of water, that is). The first number gives you an idea of how much volume of dirty water you can treat, and the second number for how deep you want to treat it.

To solve the problem, you need to get the air down to the bottom of the body of water, otherwise below your nice surface layer, you have an anoxic, stinky layer -- your own private Black Sea. How big an area or volume of water are we talking about? Is this your own problem, or do you have neighbors who are also troubled by this? If so, it might be worth developing a community solution. Is there a sewage treatment plant in your community? They have people who are experienced in dealing with H2S remediation by oxygenation technology, they might be able to tackle your problem.

Ideally, what you want is a low maintenance system that can keep the water oxygenated and the anaerobes at bay. Something like a solar powered regenerative pump that only needs to be checked on periodically.

 
Kevin Wilson
Posts: 21
Location: Powell River, BC
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The Saanich Inlet dead zone is naturally-occurring and is below 100m depth in the sea inlet itself. See the text from the site you linked:

"Finally, one other anoxic zone. The Saanich Inlet on Vancouver Island, Canada, has a "sill" near the mouth of the inlet, about 70 meters deep, which restricts the exchange of water from the Pacific Ocean and the bottom of the inlet. For the same reasons given above, the bottom waters of the Saanich below 100 meters are also anoxic, and sediments from the Saanich have been studied to provide information about changing environmental conditions on the western coast of Canada. The Saanich sediments are particularly valuable because the have annual layers (varves). The study of the Saanich sediments can be compared to tree rings from trees over 12,000 years old that were found in a nearby lake."

I can't see any way this could possibly be affecting your yard on land.

Back to the septic system: if black water is surfacing over the leach field, then it's likely the leach field itself, not the septic tank, is the problem. Especially if the tank itself has been recently pumped out.
 
John Elliott
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Kevin Wilson wrote:
Back to the septic system: if black water is surfacing over the leach field, then it's likely the leach field itself, not the septic tank, is the problem. Especially if the tank itself has been recently pumped out.


Now you have me trying to visualize the topography of this swamp/leach field. Maybe there is a plant that can help you out -- a bald cypress. Not because it will do anything with the H2S, but because it will change the evapotranspiration of the leach field. The bald cypress can grow in that anoxic swamp water and act as a keystone species to change the ecology to something that is less offensive to the nose. We have a bald cypress swamp between the city's sewage treatment plant and the river, and the swamp itself never smells of H2S. Not as much can be said for the big tanks at the treatment plant.

If you want to try starting some bald cypress, send me a PM with your address -- I've still got seeds to give away.
 
Betty Lamb
Posts: 62
Location: Vancouver Island, Zone??
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Kevin Wilson wrote:The Saanich Inlet dead zone is naturally-occurring and is below 100m depth in the sea inlet itself. See the text from the site you linked:

"Finally, one other anoxic zone. The Saanich Inlet on Vancouver Island, Canada, has a "sill" near the mouth of the inlet, about 70 meters deep, which restricts the exchange of water from the Pacific Ocean and the bottom of the inlet. For the same reasons given above, the bottom waters of the Saanich below 100 meters are also anoxic, and sediments from the Saanich have been studied to provide information about changing environmental conditions on the western coast of Canada. The Saanich sediments are particularly valuable because the have annual layers (varves). The study of the Saanich sediments can be compared to tree rings from trees over 12,000 years old that were found in a nearby lake."

I can't see any way this could possibly be affecting your yard on land.

Back to the septic system: if black water is surfacing over the leach field, then it's likely the leach field itself, not the septic tank, is the problem. Especially if the tank itself has been recently pumped out.


Hi Kevin,

I did actually read the text of my link, or I wouldn't have linked it, I have also done a lot of research on H2S and it's effects on the Island. The dead star fish, scallops, oysters and herring all along our coast are an indication of H2S. We have had cars spontaneously com-bust, early morning explosions and people dropping dead in and near water ways, also all indications of H2S. I am sure the dead zone does not help the situation, I am also sure that NASA aren't always forthcoming with full and truthfull information. The very fact it's acknowledged by them is an indication that there could possibly be a little more to it than and simple naturally occurring dead zone. I guess the sewage outflow in that area isn't a factor? I'm not trying to mislead anyone, I have done my research and I know what the problem is.

I am simply trying to find a natural remedy for a natural gas, nature has its checks and balances.
 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 202
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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You can retrofit your septic tank with a Sludgehammer advanced treatment system. It is basically an aeration system for the septic tank that makes it an aerobic digester instead of standard anaerobic septic system. This is one of the simplest types of advanced treatment systems on the market. I think the power draw is something like 40 watts for the compressor. A similar DIY system like John Elliot suggested could be done, but experimenting with your septic tank could be a bummer and could harm you (and may be against the law if that matters to you).

H2S can be really nasty to work around. Humans have a very low odor threashold for H2S - which is good. However, our olfactory systems get overloaded as concentrations increase to the point where at deadly concentrations we can no longer smell H2S.

Septic and wastewater effluent could easily be the source of the dead zone. I have done work in areas with shallow groundwater and fairly small lot sizes (3/4 to 2 acres). The result can be groundwater with so much septic effluent in it that the nitrogen in the water is not in the form of nitrate but as ammonia - and a lot of it. In these situations sulfur will be present as H2S instead of sulfate (SO4). These situations are more common than people realize. IMO conventional septic systems should not be used near sensitive groundwater or surface water areas - especially when average lot sizes are on the small side. For example if the average lot size is an acre, then there is a septic tank and leachfield every 200 feet or so. If there is shallow groundwater in such an area it doesn't take long before all groundwater in the area is anoxic and contaminated. Also, if everyone has there own well then the wells are generally way too close to the septic systems. Your well may be 100 feet from your septic system but may be close to your neighbors...
 
Betty Lamb
Posts: 62
Location: Vancouver Island, Zone??
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Ardilla Esch wrote:You can retrofit your septic tank with a Sludgehammer advanced treatment system. It is basically an aeration system for the septic tank that makes it an aerobic digester instead of standard anaerobic septic system. This is one of the simplest types of advanced treatment systems on the market. I think the power draw is something like 40 watts for the compressor. A similar DIY system like John Elliot suggested could be done, but experimenting with your septic tank could be a bummer and could harm you (and may be against the law if that matters to you).

H2S can be really nasty to work around. Humans have a very low odor threashold for H2S - which is good. However, our olfactory systems get overloaded as concentrations increase to the point where at deadly concentrations we can no longer smell H2S.

Septic and wastewater effluent could easily be the source of the dead zone. I have done work in areas with shallow groundwater and fairly small lot sizes (3/4 to 2 acres). The result can be groundwater with so much septic effluent in it that the nitrogen in the water is not in the form of nitrate but as ammonia - and a lot of it. In these situations sulfur will be present as H2S instead of sulfate (SO4). These situations are more common than people realize. IMO conventional septic systems should not be used near sensitive groundwater or surface water areas - especially when average lot sizes are on the small side. For example if the average lot size is an acre, then there is a septic tank and leachfield every 200 feet or so. If there is shallow groundwater in such an area it doesn't take long before all groundwater in the area is anoxic and contaminated. Also, if everyone has there own well then the wells are generally way too close to the septic systems. Your well may be 100 feet from your septic system but may be close to your neighbors...


Thank you, Ardilla you confirmed what my husband and I have been suspecting. We get a lot of rain and the water table is also very high right now. It dries out a lot more in the summer and we were just going to wait and see what would happen. I think it is as you say, there is contaminated water in the lower 2/3rds of the yard. Even the chickens avoid the area. We are on a hill so luckily the lower 2/3rds is the bottem end of the yard. The house is up higher. I've told the landlord but I doubt he'll do much about it.


Thanks again!
 
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