A raw sewage backup can be a true nightmare for any home, business or establishment. Not only does it smell and look awful, but allowing raw sewage to linger has the potential to destroy human health.
For this reason, it is imperative that property owners enlist the help of professional cleaning companies and plumbing services to address sewage overflows so that the establishment can receive an effectual clean that can obliterate any life-threatening bacteria and viruses, for good.
Potential Health Risks
Unsurprisingly, there are many health risks linked to exposure to raw sewage. The health risks involved depend on a variety of factors, including the length of exposure and the pre-existing health condition of the person infected. But generally speaking, sewage is very dangerous, and even deadly, for anyone who is exposed.
Because raw sewage is wastewater, it contains many deadly viruses, parasites, diseases and can cause, or agitate, health issues. Though these contaminants can’t usually penetrate skin that has no open wounds or cuts, those handling raw sewage should always wear protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, to prevent exposure to pathogens.
Other than entering the body through open wounds or cuts, bacteria, viruses and parasites contained in sewage often enter the human body through the eyes, nose, mouth or ears. As such, anyone handling raw sewage for any reason, whether they are wearing protective gear or not, should never touch these parts of their body while actively cleaning, as doing so may cause infection.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with exposure to raw sewage include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Contraction of hepatitis A
- Flu or cold symptoms
- Abdominal cramping
Many fear being exposed to other diseases, such as Hepatitis B or HIV, through fecal matter and sewage. However, there has been no proven evidence as of yet to indicate that any of these diseases can be transmitted to those exposed to sewage. Nevertheless, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Always approach sewage with caution and safety.
Personal Protective Equipment
In order to ensure a successful clean up, cleaning crews will need to ensure they bring with them the proper tools and personal protective equipment needed on the job. A few types of protective equipment and tools clean up crews may bring with them to the scene of a sewage spill include face masks, waterproof gloves, impermeable coveralls, mops, buckets, tongs, fans, generators, wet/dry vacuums and more.
Clean Up Procedures
When emergency crews arrive on the scene, they will adhere to particular guidelines and protocol to keep themselves and building occupants safe. There may be circumstances in which valuables, including carpets, rugs and other porous materials may be discarded. It is important for property owners of sewage-affected structures to understand that this is done for the safety of everyone involved. Highly porous items are especially susceptible to holding on to bacteria and microbes that have the potential to affect human health, and many of these items aren’t able to be cleaned effectively to rid them of all contaminants.
The following are general steps taken to remediate sewage-affected homes and buildings:
Upon arriving on the scene, specialists will seek to contain sewage water to as small of an area as possible. Attempts to prevent affected water from entering any nearby storm drains will be made.
Next, the affected area will be secured. Pets, children, the elderly and unauthorized persons will be restricted access to the contaminated space for their own health and safety.
All electrical threats will be resolved, if there are any. Circuit breakers may be shut off.
Specialists will check to see if the area affected can be defined as a confined space. If so, the team will adhere to protocol designated for working in an environment designated as such.
Specialists will ensure proper hygiene throughout the cleanup process. This includes wearing water-proof gloves, washing hands, avoiding direct contact of sewage with bare hands and avoiding touching their eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
In addition, specialists will ensure they are wearing the proper protective gear necessary according to the need of the sewer event.
Specialists will mix disinfectants and other solutions needed to begin working once PPE, or protective personal equipment, has been put on.
All loose items, such as rugs and furniture, will be removed from the sewage-affected area.
Carpeting that has been affected should be removed and thrown away. Carpets are difficult to get completely sanitized, and thus, are better off discarded. There may, at times, be the possibility of remediating sewage-affected oriental rugs, however, this may prove to be a costly procedure, and it will likely require the inspection of a third-party entity.
Hard surfaces can be wet cleaned, depending on the material, using a disinfectant. They will then sit to air dry.
Upholstery, loose rugs and the like will need to be cleaned if they are at all salvageable. This may require a third-party specialty cleaner, depending on the item.
Lath, plaster and plasterboard may need to be removed if saturated but may be cleaned using disinfectant if it isn’t saturated.
All plumbing fixtures, including sinks and basins, will be disinfected using disinfectant solution, if they are affected with sewage.
Raw sewage and fecal matter will be disposed of in an effective and sanitary manner, usually, in a functioning sewer system.
Air circulation will be necessary for sewage spills affecting indoor units. As such, crews will open windows and doors to increase drying rates. They will also use fans and air movers to ensure the affected space gets dry.
Lastly, all tools used to disinfect sewage-impacted items will be disinfected, themselves. All crew members will follow guidelines regarding their own hygiene in a manner according to proper protocol.
Signs of Sewage Systems Gone Awry
Though it can be hard to predict exactly when a sewage overflow event is going to take place, it can often help property and homeowners to know the signs of a sewage system that is on the fritz long before a backup transpires. Signs such as foul odors emitting from drains, bubbling toilets or drains and drain clogs are a few tell-tale signs that your plumbing system may be going awry. Homeowners and property holders should also pay extra close attention to multiple clogs that seemingly occur at the same time, as this could spell impending trouble, and should be addressed, immediately.
Careful Clean Up Is Key
All in all, when cleaning specialists are called to the scene of a sewer overflow situation, it is important that all parties involved take the precautions necessary to avoid exposure to harmful and potentially fatal pathogens and bacteria. By wearing gloves, goggles, face masks and by following standard protocol, cleaning crews can work to keep themselves safe, as well as those around them.
If you are noticing the signs that may implicate an impending sewage backup, do not hesitate to contact a professional to assess the situation. Moreover, be sure to pursue preventive maintenance of your plumbing system throughout the year, and avoid behaviors that may cause recurring clogs to keep sewage backups at bay.