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Awareness: A little tidbit

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Got a call about a "sewer gas smell" in the basement. Plumbing tech went over and determined the unused basement shower must have a dry trap, and poured some mineral oil in there, case closed.

Next day they call again, sewer gas smell is worse. Now it's upstairs as well! Armed with a leak detector and analyser, I go into the basement and both start going wild. Zeroed in on the upstairs bath, under the vanity, near an access panel. Right where a pair of PVC vent and Combustion air pipes combine into a Concentric vent thru the roof. I walk around outside in the snow and see steam coming out the vent, but a huge rotten-egg odor all around. Turns out the Propane Mod-Con in the basement has gotten terribly out of adjustment, the CO numbers skyrocket, and the exhaust gas smells real bad.

Apparently there are leaks in the vent system as well, so I cut it loose under the floor and re-route it straight out horizontally. Found a whole lumberyard full of wood blocks and cedar shims in the horizontal portion of the vent! 

CO alarm did not go off. There was 180 ppm in the bathroom, next to the master bedroom!

Comments

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
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    Awareness:

    Awareness is a good thing.

    I can't make this stuff up. I have the photos to prove it.

    I got a call on my machine when I got home from a person in CT asking me if I could help them out with a backflow problem. I called back and made arrangements to have a caretaker leave the door open. Owner had needed parts he said. Never been in the place. Building converted to Condos, 6 or 8. I walked into a hallway from outside and immediately smelled the odor of either a dead animal or mercaptan in LP gas. Dead animals have a sweeter smell. Walked down a ramp to the utility room. It was as bad in there too. There is a WA furnace in there and a whole tribe of gas meters to meter the LP use of the owners. All electric water heaters. I think CO so I go out to the truck and get my CO tester, Inside, no CO. I call a friend who works for one of the LP providers and borrow his sniffer. It went off lightly in the hall as soon as I walked in and in the utility room. The building was hard piped for gas except that all the riser/runs were in yellow CSST Trac-Pipe. Hundreds of feet of it. I was looking for a leaking connection. I didn't find any but on the back wall of the cellar that was a crawl space on the other side, were two gas meters. The readings were higher around the meters but nothing to pinpoint. I stuck the probe up to the ceiling and pushed it into the crawl space over the sill plate where the insulation was blocking the draft. The meter started to scream. I went outside and called the gas guy to come find and fix it. There was a light to the crawl space next to the 30" X 30" piece of painted plywood leading into the crawl space. I chose not to turn it on. The gas guy came to find the leak. He climbs into the crawl space with his sniffer. He sniffs around where the gas came through the wall. The instrument is on low and clicking rapidly. He moves around and says it's really strong on the other side of a steel beam. One of the runs of CSST was laying on the top of the old rusted steel beam. I told him that the leak was on top of the beam where the ground vibration had worn a hole in it.. Sure enough, there was a pinhole worn in the tube and you could see where the yellow plastic was worn through at the top of the volutes. Another person came and fixed the leak. I called the caretaker who was in Boston and told him. I told him that a source of ignition (the light) could have blown the back of the building off. He told me that since he took over management of the property over a year ago, he had always smelled that smell. The condo president came down once a month to check. They always smelled the smell.

    I fixed the backflow and left.

    The owner was grateful.  
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
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    ??

    "They alway's smelled the smell" And no one did a pressure test of the system?? That's scary......I dont care how difficult it will be, we shut the system's down and do pressure test's for any and all call's for odors..no matter how small.... 
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
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    Awareness:

    You missed what I said, Which was that that was the first time I had ever been on the property. I was called by the Condo President to fix a leaking backflow. When I went inside the building that was left open for me, I smelled the gas odor. I wasn't called for a gas smell. The people in the building thought that it was "normal" but offensive.

    I have no idea how long it leaked. There must have been another plumber there before me because he wouldn't fix the backflow, I did. The first property manager was involved in the Condo Conversion. The new one took over a year and a half ago. The new manager told me that he had smelled the odor since he took it over. So it was leaking for at least 1 1/2 years.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,628
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    People in this business sure

    do need a lot of trainng on how to deal with gas leaks, combustion problems, air for combustion, venting and all the other stuf that can simply just kill people.



    We do however put in very pretty looking piping systems.
  • bill_105
    bill_105 Member Posts: 429
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    And a week later?

    So what is the end result? I've got some weird stories!
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
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    Please do share bill...

    I think one of the dumbest things I've ever seen was a Munchkin installed by a DIYer and his half fast plumbing brother in law. They had the combustion air tee set up as the very first fitting off of the exhaust. In other words, most of the products of combustion were being dumped into the mechanical room. It's amazing that someone didn't die...



    Candidates for the dumbest nearly dead human award for sure... Would have given them the Darwin Award, but they lived...



    ME

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
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    Are you asking me?

    Are you asking me?

    The leak was fixed before I fixed the backflow. I've already been paid. I saw the caretaker/property manager yesterday (3/20/2012)  and he said that the smell is gone.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
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    Knowing:

    Yeah, but knowing that stuff makes you a know it all, a problem, a PITA and an alarmist to be avoided at all cost.

    When someone calls you about a problem, they don't tell you the past history. You point out all the deficiencies and what probably isn't happening and why. The owner is impressed with the fact that you have diagnosed the problems they have noticed a d a few they didn't know were wrong. The Hackaroo is PO'ed at you for bad mouthing their "piping Picasso wannabe", and the hackaroo and the owner is PO'ed because someone didn't offer the pair of jeans with the hole in the back and a jar of Vaseline
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