This study was carried out to evaluate the effect of natural ventilation and intermittent pumping events in hydrogen sulfide and methane dynamics, in terms of system operation and risk of gas exposure. Work was conducted in a full scale gravity sewer downstream of pumping stations, in Portugal. Different ventilation rates and locations were assessed, as well as H2S removal rates and potential exposure risk, through the opening of distinct manhole covers. Increased ventilation, resulting from opening of one manhole cover, saw a 38% increase in average pipe air velocity peaks, doubling the estimated rate of air turnovers per day, accompanied by an increase of nearly 20% in H2S average removal rate. Simultaneous opening of two manhole covers induced similar airflow rates through the vent stack, but different rates throughout the pipe. H2S removal rates were also found to differ, according to location of open manholes, but also initial H2S headspace concentration Under more unfavourable conditions, natural ventilation did not suffice in attaining recommended safety concentrations, regardless of number and location of open manhole covers. H2S concentrations above defined thresholds were verified for all studied setups. Headspace oxygen concentrations below an 18.5% asphyxiation threshold also occasionally occurred, even at manholes immediately downstream of ventilation point.
The study assesses field data regarding the effect of ventilation and pumping in gas movement in sewers lacking in the literature.
Under unfavorable conditions, natural ventilation did not suffice in attaining recommended safety concentrations.