If you are a resident who has experienced a sewage backup in your home, you know what a hassle and health hazard this can be. If you have yet to experience such an event in your home, it can help to have information before an event like this occurs so that you can work to protect yourself and other occupants within the structure from harm.
Common Causes of Sewage Backup
Sewage backup can be caused by a multitude of issues.
One major way that sewage gets backed up is because of clogged pipes. Whether they are grossly eroded, clogged with toilet paper, jammed up with foreign objects or have become blocked with sundry debris over time, a clogged pipe is an easy way to cause sewage to back up in your home.
Another common reason for sewer blockages is an overflow of water into the septic system. This is often the cause of natural occurrences, such as rainstorms, flooding and thawing ice and snow.
Health Implications of Sewage Backup
Unfortunately, although sewer blockages are very common, they can render devastating effects on your health. When sewer systems become blocked, surface water such as lakes, ponds, streams, rivers and your drinking water can become contaminated.
When raw sewage enters your home, it can bring with it a whole host of unsavory consequences, including the spread of surface contaminants that could potentially spread illness and disease to those occupying the affected structure.
Nevertheless, some sewer backups are less hazardous than others. Of course, if there is a significant amount of human waste within the water, the situation is quite urgent. Other factors that will play a role in the urgency of a sewage situation may include:
- The types of germs present in the sewage
- The amount of sewage present
- The amount of time that the sewage has been sitting
- The amount of time that building occupants have been exposed to the sewage
Of course, it will be nearly impossible for the property owner of a sewage-infected home to know with certainty the answers to the above factors. Because of this, it is crucial that homeowners initiate a phone call to their local biohazard cleaning company so that a situation such as this can be handled with a skillful and well-trained hand.
If, after spending a prolonged amount of time in a sewage contaminated home, an occupant of the affected structure begins to have symptoms that indicate gastrointestinal distress, or notices red rashes and other infections on their skin, the person in question should seek medical attention, immediately. This could be an indication that the person has come in contact with raw sewage, and it will need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Signs of gastrointestinal distress include:
- Abdominal Cramps
What You Should Do Immediately Following a Sewage Backup
Because the effects of a sewer blockage could yield harrowing consequences on the health of the occupants of the affected structure, it is important that immediate action is taken at the onset of a backup.
First, property owners should make sure that no one attempts to flush the toilet following the backup.
Second, homeowners should ensure that all children, pets and other persons of special interest, such as pregnant women or the elderly, are restricted access to the sewage-impacted area.
Third, any attempts to clean raw sewage should never be done without the appropriate safety equipment. This may include rubber gloves, rubber boots and protective eyewear when available. Adults with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues should not attempt to do any cleaning on their own.
Fourth, homeowners may call the local sewer department if there is one in the area. They may also wish to contact the local health department for further instructions on how to safely dispose of any waste or contaminated water in the home.
Lastly, property owners should contact their insurance company or contract with a restoration company themselves to get water remedial services dispatched as quickly as possible.
Whatever you do, do not neglect the last step! Though you may think you’ve effectively cleaned and dried the impacted area in your home, looks can be deceiving. Even worse, there could be many of those illness and disease causing contaminants still lurking around, along with the addition of microscopic microbes forming with every passing minute that the water-affected surface remains unchecked.
Always involve the help of a professional restorer in cases such as this!
Sewage Backup Cleanup
Despite sewage clean up being dirty business, there really are serious health implications at stake when homeowners are deciding whether or not to take the issue of cleaning into their own hands.
In general, we never recommend a person go about cleaning sewage on their own, but there are circumstances in which some property owners may not be able to help the situation. Whether it be a lapse in insurance coverage or a lack of money, there are many who may roll up their sleeves and go about cleaning up any sewage overflow on their own.
Before deciding to take on this cumbersome task, it is important that property owners take into account a few considerations.
If the affected building has duct work that has become contaminated with sewage, has sat longer than 24 hours with sewage in it or is an extensive job, the property owners should not, under any circumstances, attempt to remediate the situation alone. Doing so may seem to save time and money in the beginning, but it isn’t worth compromising health and safety.
If the situation isn’t extensive and there is no option but to handle the clean up yourself, the following parameters should be observed:
- Always wear protective gear.
- Pay close attention to the chemicals you use, and be sure to use them according to their directions. Never mix ammonia and bleach, as doing so could produce fatal toxins.
- Wear protective eyewear to prevent splashing contaminated water into your eyes.
- Never touch raw sewage with your bare hands.
- Wash your hands immediately following the cleanup.
- Ensure that all scrapes and open wounds are covered and protected.
Also, when cleaning up, it is important that you throw away highly porous items that become contaminated. Leaving them in the affected home increases the chances of reinfecting the area, even after you’ve cleaned it. Common items you may need to discard if they become infected include cardboard, stuffed animals, toys, upholstered furniture, food, mattresses, pillows, cosmetics, medical goods, carpet and more.
Sewage Cleanup Is Serious Business That Requires Serious Remedial Efforts
All in all, though sewage backups are common in residential homes, they aren’t an issue to take lightly. When sewage backups occur, homeowners and occupants should do all they can to limit their own exposure to any raw sewage, while protecting the vulnerable, such as pets and children, in their homes as well.
Ideally, homeowners will contact a remediation team to handle the clean up to prevent any long-term hazards from forming in relation to their health and safety. If property owners do choose to address sewage on their own, they do so at their own risk and must ensure that they protect themselves by wearing the appropriate protective gear and taking the appropriate safety measures.