Basement drain

MA> I have a split level house in Minnesota with a finished basement. The housMA> is about 25 years old (we moved in 6 months ago). In the basement there is MA> a drain by one of the external walls. It is circular, with about a 6-8" MA> diameter, and when you take the grill off, underneath there is a fairly MA> small hole (about 2" dia) with a float of water (pretty dirty). I think MA> this drain is the source of bad smells we have noticed recently, so MA> yesterday I poured a few cups of bleach down there (seems to have helped MA> somewhat). MA> MA> What is this drain for, and how does it work? Presumably there is some kinMA> of u-bend arrangement, as when you pour liquid into it, it maintains the MA> same level. Is there anything else I could do to get rid of the smell?
I've read putting regular cooking oil in the trap will keep it from evaporating dry. Have not tried it personally; we have what sounds like a similar drain in our basement and the water from the furnace (condensing type) and a/c keep it replenished.
The 'bad smells' could have been sewer gas escaping because the trap water evaporated sufficiently to allow the gas to escape. Cleaning the trap added enough water to re-establish the water seal. (Cleaning the drain area probably helped some too!)
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