Soil smells like sewage

fivemurfs(6.5 TN)March 23, 2012


We're doing an add on and when they excavated for the foundation the dirt smelled and still smells like sewage. The contractor said that is common for dirt that has just been dug up and that when the soil dries the odor will go away. It has not dried out as we are having regular rains. Has anyone had a similar experience or heard of this explanation?



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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Do you have a septic system? That smell indicates anerobic bacteria, usually caused by overwet soil or compost. Caused by the bacteria working on superwet organic material.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:50PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I used to have this acacia tree, it made the soil smell like poop. I used to think it was my cats pooping in the soil, but then after we cut down the foul tree, the smell went away, so I knew it was the tree.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 8:29PM
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fivemurfs(6.5 TN)

We've been on the sewer line since we moved here 18 years ago. If they hit an old septic tank while digging wouldn't it have been apparent to them?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:06PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

If, for some reason your soil is wet; i.e., underground spring, heavy rains, neighbor's overwatering of lawn and drainage into your yard, etc., and it saturates highly organic soil you will get anerobic bacteria working on it. Stenchola. Drying (oxygenation) can relieve that, so your contractor may be correct if he is uncovering a situation like this.
At a place I lived (30+ years ago) my neighbors decided to line their 10' diameter, wire fence enclosed compost pile with a double layer of visqueen plastic (still don't know why), then water the heck out of it to get it to break down. Created a miasmiatic swamp. Whoa. Same severe stenchola. I snuck over with an icepick and pummelled the whiz out of their plastic at the bottom for drainage. Then I was able to breathe and leave my windows open at night. I'm sure they still think they did the right thing - oops, true confessions...;)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Soils lacking air, anaerobic soils, often will have an aroma reminiscent of sewage. That has nothing to do with having a septic tank or drain field nearby, it is the odor the anaerobic bacteria emit. Wet soils can smell the same.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 6:18AM
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fivemurfs(6.5 TN)

We've never had a drainage problem on our property, but it's understandable that wet soil piled up in mounds with rain puddles in low spots could create swampy, sewer like conditions. Hopefully as the soil dries out and is redistributed the odor will go away. Thank you all for your input.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Horster,they're probably bragging how effective that compost was to this very day.lolo


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 4:27AM
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