Can a Septic Tank Explode?

You might have heard stories at some point about septic tanks spontaneously combusting. Can this actually happen?

The answer is yes—there are documented cases in which tanks have exploded and started fires that were serious enough that they burned down homes. While it is very rare, it is possible, so it can’t hurt to be aware of how this can happen and how to prevent it from becoming a realistic possibility at your home. Here’s some information from our septic service in Bethel, OH.

Safety issues

One of the safety concerns that can be a factor in septic systems is a buildup of explosive, toxic gases. When dealing with these gases and performing work on a septic system, it’s important to be properly prepared with the correct equipment, including a harness and other safety gear, as well as ventilation equipment.

Lifelines include ¾-inch manila, ½-inch nylon and ½-inch polypropylene lines. The free end of each line should be tied up on an object that will not fall down into the tank—something stable.

In addition, you should have at least two people standing up above the tank who are able to rescue the technician who goes down into the tank without having to actually enter the tank. If the person is not attached to the lifeline and has collapsed due to the gases, rescue should only be performed by a person wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus and a lifeline. There are too many instances of people who enter tanks and collapse, then someone follows them without the proper equipment, only to have the same thing happen to them.

So what do you need to know about ventilation?

First, you should know that septic tanks have large amounts of methane gas built up inside of them. Methane is a natural byproduct of anaerobic digestion, which is the process that breaks down organic solids in the septic tank. Gases burned to generate electricity are often methane, which means it’s highly combustible. When talking about the possibility of a septic tank exploding, the presence of high amounts of methane is one of the factors you have to consider.

A septic tank must be properly vented to keep that methane from getting to unsafe levels. Most sewage codes have specific ventilation requirements. For example, in a single-compartment tank, you need at least an inch or two of space above the baffles to the bottom of the tank’s lid. In a compartmented tank, you also need ventilation between each of the compartments. A lack of proper ventilation will result in those gases collecting, as they are heavier than air.

For an explosion or fire to occur, there has to be some sort of heat source, including flames, electrical tools, sparks and cigarettes. A lack of ventilation combined with a heat source could be catastrophic.

Therefore, it’s crucial you ensure your septic tank is properly installed, and that you keep these heat sources away from the tank.

For more information about septic system safety and septic service in Bethel, OH, contact Gullett Sanitation Services, Inc. today.

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