By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin 1/29/21
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) knows that eliminating or minimizing sewage smells are a crucial component of proper infrastructure maintenance. LCU sends crews out to different locations throughout Las Cruces to check odor levels and ensure that chemicals are neutralizing the sulfate ions properly. However, when the smells are coming from a residential home, the answer can be much simpler – a dry pipe can become a smelly pipe.
“When we answer odor complaints, one of the first things we do is check the P-traps," John Mrozek, LCU deputy director Wastewater, said. "We'll shine a light down the drains to see if water reflects back and if not, we pour water down the drain."
Pipes traditionally come with their own method to trap sewage gas - a P-trap, which is a bend in the pipe. The bend allows water to seal in the sewer gases and stops them from coming into the home.
"When a pipe goes unused, say a guest bathroom or utility closet, the trap can dry up and the gases will then come back into the home," Mrozek said. He explained that LCU crews will examine vent stacks on roofs as well. Those vents help move air displaced by water flowing in the pipe. Faulty construction can send sewage smells into the home as well, but more rarely, said Mrozek.
"LCU uses quite a bit of resources to control sewer odor, from our plant and within the city, by applying odor control chemicals," Mrozek said. "It's a concerted effort so that the public doesn’t notice odors or keeps them at a reasonable minimum amount, but we're always willing to come to visit a residence and double-check their sewer lines if they notice a smell they can't get to go away."
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Water Maintenance Workers Eric Medrano and Steve Cristo use a tool to measure odor on a local sewer maintenance hole. LCU measures the odor in the streets, but sometimes dry plumbing allows sewer gases back into homes. If you smell sewage, try running water for 10 minutes down a drain to see if it helps.
Inset: The odor measurement tool that LCU uses to check the hydrogen sulfide gas levels around Las Cruces.