Sewage Backups: Causes, Health Effects, and How to Prevent
Indoor floods and plumbing leaks are difficult disasters to handle because they can result in extensive water damage. If the flooding in your home contains sewage or is caused by a sewer backup, the situation will be much more dangerous. Sewage backup contains microorganisms, bacteria, and human waste and those that come into contact with sewage water are at risk for disease or infection. The mess caused by a sewage backup can only be cleaned up by a trained water damage professional. Because sewer backups are damaging and hazardous to your health, it is best to know the common signs and causes of a sewage backup so you can prevent them from happening.
Health Effects of Sewage Backups
The health effects from exposure to sewage can range from illness to more serious diseases and even death. Sewage contamination is responsible for around 2 million cases of illness per year according to the National Resources Defense Council. Sewage water may contain plenty of contaminants and hazardous materials including bacteria, viruses, pesticides, fungus, microorganisms, and others. The following are the most common health conditions caused by bacteria in sewage:
- E. Coli: This bacterium is potentially deadly with symptoms that include abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
- Salmonella: Symptoms include abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
- Hepatitis: Hepatitis causes liver inflammation and can eventually lead to liver failure.
- Leptospirosis: Symptoms include vomiting and muscle aches.
- Acanthamoeba: Leads to infection of the eyes, nose, ears, and throat.
- Helicobacter Pylori: Increases the risk of ulcers.
Sewage Backup Causes and Warning Signs
Sewage backups are typically the result of a clogged sewer line which is nearly impossible to spot. However, there are three warning signs of a clogged sewer line that you should look for in your home:
- Backups in several drains: If your sinks, bathtubs, and toilets are experiencing backups and trouble draining, there could be a problem in the sewer line.
- Water backups in strange places: If using one of your plumbing fixtures like the sink or toilet causes backups in a nearby plumbing fixture, this could mean that the water has nowhere to escape.
- Backup in the sewer cleanout: The sewer cleanout is usually a white or black pipe that extends out of the side of your home and it allows access to the sewer line. If the sewer cleanout is full of water, there is a good chance of a sewer line clog.
If a clogged sewer line is the main cause of a sewage backup, then what causes the sewer line to become clogged? The following are the most common causes:
- Blockage from root infiltration: The roots from trees and bushes can infiltrate and damage sewer lines as they extend out in the soil looking for moisture. This infiltration can easily cause a blockage.
- Structural defects: If there is a structural issue with your foundation that affects the sewer line, your sewer line is at risk for a blockage.
- Flushing things down the toilet: Do not flush anything that isn’t supposed to go in the toilet to prevent a clog.
- Blockage in the city sanitary main: Sometimes the city sanitary main line can get clogged and cause backups in nearby homes and buildings through the floor drains.
- Wet weather and flooding in or near your home.
- Broken, blocked, or leaking pipes.
Preventing Sewage Backups
The best action you can take against sewage backups is to prevent them in the first place. The following actions can help you avoid sewage backups in your home:
- Look for and seal any cracks in your foundation and waterproof your basement.
- Do not wash grease down the drain because it can harden and clog the pipes or the main sewer line.
- Raise or remove plumbing fixtures in your basement including toilets, sinks, and washing machines.
- Do not flush anything down your toilet other than bathroom tissue.
- Replace your current sewer line with new plastic piping to prevent infiltration from tree and bush roots.
- Install a sump pump in your basement to pump out excess water.
Sewage backups present a major problem in your home because of the potential damage and negative health effects but by recognizing the warning signs and taking preventive actions, you can prevent a sewer backup. If you do experience a sewage backup or in-home flooding that may contain sewage, call a water damage restoration professional right away. These professionals are highly trained to deal with sewage water and ensure that it is removed safely.