Why Sewage Backup Should Be Cleaned by Professionals
One of the jobs of the plumbing system in your home is to remove wastewater from the property and send it into the sewage system. Sometimes, there may be a problem with this exchange which can cause a sewage backup, sending sewage contaminated water back into your home. Sewage water contains waste materials as well as harmful microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Sewage backups not only quickly cause severe, often permanent property damage, but they also put your health at serious risk.
When a sewage backup occurs, it needs to be properly cleaned up immediately. The contaminated water will continue to spread through porous materials like flooring, furnishings, and structural elements like wood and drywall, often resulting in irreversible damage. The longer the sewage is in your home, the higher the risk of negative health effects from exposure. Cleaning up a sewage backup right away can help you limit the damage and protect the health of everyone within the home.
Sewage backups are dangerous to clean up because attempting to clean it up without using the right methods, equipment, and disinfectants puts your health and safety at risk. It is best to call a professional that provides sewage backup cleaning to clean and restore your home. These professionals have the proper equipment to remove contaminated water, raw sewage, and damaged building materials and they can repair the damage and restore safe conditions to the affected areas.
Understanding Sewage Backups
Sewage contaminated water may get into a home or building in one of two ways. One way sewage can affect your home is if it is flooded by water that was mixed with sewage before it enters your property. The most common way people end up with sewage in their home is if a problem with the sewage system causes a backup that pushes sewage water into the property. When this happens, the sewage water may be pushed up through toilets, bathtub drains, and drains in the basement.
The following are the main causes of sewage backups:
- Blockage: A blockage in the sewer line can cause a backup. While sewer lines can be blocked by any type of debris, the main cause of sewer blockages is tree roots. Tree roots can spread far from the tree itself and wrap around sewer lines, causing damage to the pipes.
- Clogs: Clogs in the sewer lines are typically caused by debris flushed down the toilet, hair, grease, and other solid materials washed down the wastewater pipe.
- Broken lines: Older homes may have cast iron, cement, or clay piping that can each deteriorate over time. Plastic sewer lines that are much less likely to deteriorate are now the standard.
Sewage water is highly contaminated which is what makes sewage backups in your home so dangerous. The following contaminants may be found in sewage:
Exposure to each of these contaminants can result in serious illnesses or infections. If your home is affected by sewage, you need to keep the affected areas clear to prevent anyone from experiencing health issues and call a restoration professional for cleanup immediately.
Health Risks and Safety Concerns
Sewage backups can cause considerable damage to your property while posing a major threat to your health and safety. The following are the biggest concerns when it comes to sewage in your home.
Sewage water contains dangerous toxins that can infect people who come into contact with the water. You do not have to consume the sewage water to become sick. You could be exposed to dangerous bacteria and viruses if the sewage water comes into direct contact with a cut, or if you eat or drink after coming into contact with sewage without properly washing your hands.
The most common waterborne illness caused by sewage exposure is Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli. People infected with E. coli may experience vomiting, cramping, severe diarrhea, and dehydration.
Hepatitis A is another waterborne illness that can be caused by exposure to sewage. This disease affects the liver with symptoms that include inflammation of the liver and jaundice or yellowing of the skin. Hepatitis A is also highly contagious as someone who is infected from sewage exposure can easily infect others.
Just being in the area where a sewage backup has occurred is dangerous because raw sewage emits vapors that can cause illnesses. A common airborne illness from sewage is gastroenteritis, which causes fever, vomiting, and cramping. This illness can even be fatal if left untreated. Asthma is another concern when sewage contamination occurs as inhaling toxins from sewage can cause asthma-like symptoms, including shortness of breath, and trigger attacks in people who have asthma.
When entering an area affected by sewage, it is very important to wear protective gear to prevent exposure to the sewage and airborne contaminants. Harmful fumes and vapors are typically released during the cleaning process which is why it is best to call a professional for sewage cleaning.
Porous structural materials absorb water when flooding occurs, which can cause buckling, warping, and corrosion of the affected materials. When porous building materials absorb sewage water, they are also absorbing the waste materials and toxins along with the water. This very quickly leads to permanent damage.
When building materials like wood, drywall, and the foundation absorb sewage water, the damage from the contaminated water can weaken these materials and cause major structural damage. In most cases, the affected building materials need to be removed and replaced. If the areas affected are not dried and restored properly, especially when it comes to the foundation, damage can continue to occur gradually over time and threaten the structural integrity of your home.
Proper Equipment and Expertise
Cleaning up the aftermath of a sewage backup is a dangerous job that must be left to professionals. Sewage cleanup professionals have the expertise and the proper equipment and cleaning products to ensure thorough, safe restoration.
Training and Experience
Professionals who provide sewage backup cleaning receive extensive training and must be certified by a recognized regulatory body within the industry, such as the International Institute of Sewer Pipe Cleaning (IISPC) or the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC). It also helps if a professional is certified to provide biohazard cleaning. When calling a professional, make sure they are certified to provide sewage backup cleaning.
Sewage cleanup should never be a DIY job because it requires advanced methods and experience to get the job done safely. Professionals who provide sewage backup cleaning have completed these jobs before and they have the expertise to ensure effective results. Calling a certified professional to handle the sewage cleanup on your property is your best option.
The other advantage of calling a professional is that they have the proper equipment to fully remove all sewage water and permanently damaged materials and dry the affected areas. A professional will arrive with the following:
- Water extraction equipment: Professionals use advanced water extraction equipment and industrial pumps to remove all water from the property.
- Drying and dehumidification equipment: After the water and permanently damaged materials are removed, the professionals will set up dehumidification and drying equipment to dry the remaining materials.
- Cleaning products and disinfectants: Disinfecting the affected areas and materials is a vital step to help prevent the spread of illness or infection. Professionals have powerful cleaning products and disinfectants that can eliminate lingering toxins and ensure that the affected area is restored to safe conditions.
Containment of the Sewage
The first thing sewage cleanup professionals need to do is contain the sewage water to prevent it from spreading and causing additional damage. They may take the following steps to contain the sewage:
- Isolation and assessment: The first step is to assess the extent of the sewage backup and determine the source of the problem. They’ll identify the affected areas and any potential pathways for the sewage to spread.
- Safety precautions: Before attempting containment, professionals wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard themselves from exposure to harmful pathogens and contaminants.
- Block affected areas: To prevent sewage water from spreading to unaffected areas, professionals may use physical barriers such as plastic sheeting, tarps, or heavy-duty plastic barriers. These barriers are typically secured with tape or other means to seal off doorways, vents, and other openings.
- Containment pools: In some cases, professionals may create containment pools or barriers within the affected area using sandbags or inflatable dams. These pools can help contain the sewage and prevent it from spreading further.
- Use of absorbents and dams: Professionals may use absorbent materials like sand, absorbent socks, or absorbent pads to soak up and contain the sewage. These materials can be strategically placed to create a barrier that absorbs and traps the sewage.
- Suction and pumping: Specialized equipment such as pumps and wet vacuums are used to remove standing sewage water. This process helps reduce the amount of sewage available for spreading.
- Proper drainage: Professionals will establish controlled drainage routes to direct sewage water to a containment area or a designated disposal point, ensuring it doesn’t flow into unaffected areas.
- Continuous monitoring: Throughout the cleanup process, professionals continuously monitor the containment barriers and sewage water to ensure that they remain effective in preventing further spread.
Sanitization and Disinfection
After the sewage water is removed, the next step in the process is to clean up and restore the affected areas. Professionals will follow these steps after the containment and removal of the sewage:
- Immediate cleanup: Once containment is established, the cleanup and removal of sewage water and contaminated materials begin promptly to minimize the time the sewage has to spread.
- Disposal: Collected sewage and contaminated materials are sealed in biohazard containers and removed from the premises for proper disposal.
- Cleaning and sanitization: After removal, the affected area is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to eliminate any remaining contaminants.
- Repairs and restoration: Any damaged building materials are repaired or replaced, and the area is restored to its pre-sewage condition.
Time is of the essence when a sewage backup occurs as any hesitation to start the restoration process will only result in additional damage and an increased risk of health effects. Calling a sewage backup cleaning professional right away will ensure that the sewage is contained and removed before it can cause more severe damage.
Typical homeowner’s insurance policies do cover sudden or accidental water damage from a source inside your home. However, these policies do not cover damage from a sewage backup. Homeowners must add coverage for sewage backups to their insurance policies for an additional cost. If you have sewage backup coverage, make sure to thoroughly document the damage caused by the sewage, including photos and videos of the damaged areas and materials.
Restoration professionals can work with your insurance company to help manage the claim.
DIY Risks and Limitations
No matter how much sewage water is in your home, you should never attempt the cleanup as a DIY project. Cleaning up sewage is simply too dangerous without the necessary expertise and equipment.
The following are the main risks of DIY sewage cleanup:
- Sewage may spread further without proper containment
- Your health is at risk without using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ineffective removal of contaminated water and raw sewage without the proper equipment
- Ineffective drying may lead to structural damage and mold growth
- Electrocution may occur if the power is not shut off
In addition to the dangerous nature of DIY sewage cleanup, it is also ineffective. The main reason for this is because you do not possess the equipment used by professionals to thoroughly dry the affected materials or restore safe conditions.
Structural drying is an important part of the process because if wood, flooring, drywall, foundations, and other structural materials are not thoroughly dried, these materials may weaken over time. This can threaten the structural integrity of the home, leading to severe damage that is expensive to fix.
Cleaning and disinfecting the affected area is also very important to eliminate the harmful toxins left behind by the sewage. This can be difficult for homeowners to do themselves as they do not have access to the same high-grade disinfectants used by professionals. They may also fail to thoroughly treat the affected areas which will leave some of the contaminants behind, prolonging the risk of negative health effects.
Long-Term Damage Prevention
If sewage backup cleaning is not done properly, there is a risk of long-term damage that may not become apparent until years later. Licensed professionals will take the steps necessary to prevent long-term damage.
Identifying Underlying Issues
It is not enough to clean up the damage from a sewage backup, it is important to also identify and address the underlying issue that caused the backup. Failure to address the underlying issue will only result in further sewage backups.
Sewage cleaning professionals will make sure to find the issue that caused the sewage backup, whether it’s caused by a blockage, clog, or broken sewer line. This will help prevent future sewage backups.
You can also help prevent sewage backups by taking the following steps:
- Do not wash grease down the drain: Grease will solidify after it has been washed down and cause clogs in the sewer line. The same can happen if you wash bits of food, hair, and other small items down the drain. Make sure only water and water-soluble materials go down the drain.
- Only flush toilet paper: Do not flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate so that it can safely be flushed without causing a clog. You should not flush paper towels, facial tissue, feminine hygiene products, or wipes, including flushable wipes, down the toilet.
- Install backflow prevention valve: A backflow prevention valve is installed on the main sewer line, and it closes off the main line so wastewater that leaves your home cannot come back in. This helps prevent sewage backups from the main line, but not from other sources.
- Replace old sewer lines: If you have an older home, you may have sewer lines made of materials that can deteriorate over time, such as cast iron, clay, or cement. If you have old sewer pipes, replace them with plastic pipes that will not deteriorate over time or become damaged by tree roots.
Maintaining your plumbing system can also help reduce the risk of sewage backups. You can do basic maintenance yourself by routinely checking for leaks near your plumbing fixtures and pipes, checking the drains for clogs, and replacing leaking faucets and showerheads.
You should also have a plumber inspect your home and provide necessary maintenance at least once each year to prevent sewage backups and other issues. Simple maintenance from a plumbing professional can help prevent issues that will cause major damage and result in expensive repairs.
Sewage Backup FAQ
Is it safe to stay in a house with a sewage backup?
If you can make the arrangements, it is better to stay somewhere else if your home has been affected by a sewage backup. Even if you can avoid direct contact with the sewage by staying out of the affected area, your health is still in danger from airborne contaminants. Breathing in vapors emitted from the sewage can cause conditions like gastroenteritis and trigger allergic reactions like asthma.
How long does it take to become sick from sewage exposure?
You can become infected by sewage very easily either from direct contact with the contaminated water or by inhaling the vapors from the sewage. It may take as little as 1-3 days to start experiencing symptoms if you become sick from the sewage. You should call a healthcare provider if you experience severe symptoms that last for more than two days.
Call Professionals for Sewage Backup Cleaning
Sewage backups are devastating disasters that can quickly cause severe damage within your home and put your health and safety at risk. Any hesitation to clean up the sewage will allow it to spread and cause widespread damage, including structural damage that can result in costly damage. Exposure to sewage can cause a number of serious illnesses and if the sewage is not cleaned up quickly, the risk of health effects from exposure increases.
Cleaning up sewage is too dangerous to do on your own. It is best to call a professional that can safely contain and remove the sewage and restore the resulting damage. Trained and certified sewage cleaning professionals have the expertise and equipment to remove raw sewage and contaminated water as well as permanently damaged materials. After the sewage is removed, they will repair the damage and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area to eliminate the risk of illnesses.
If your home is ever affected by a sewage backup, stay clear of the area and call a professional immediately.