Sewage: It’s Grosser Than You Think
Part 2: The Aftermath of Sewage
As we discussed last week, sewage backups immediately create stressful situations and can result in significant losses and health hazards. When faced with a sewage emergency on your property, you might be thinking: how bad is the damage? Can I clean it up myself, and if not how long will it take and how much will it cost? Do I have to throw all my belongings away? Will my health or the health of my family and occupants be adversely affected?
Even if you took all the precautions we wrote about in our blog last week, some sewage nightmares are unavoidable. Some sewage backups can occur when municipal storm or sanitary sewers become overloaded from excess rains and flooding. This can cause sewer systems to become overloaded beyond capacity, causing water and waste to backup into homes and other properties through drains, sinks and toilets in basements or lower levels. Regardless of the cause of a backup, sewage and water backups in your property are emergencies that should be taken care of immediately.
With any emergency, the number one priority is safety. Electrocution is the number one risk hazard when dealing with any kind of water intrusion in your property, regardless of if it’s sewage or fresh water. If there is ANY chance that water has affected gas or electrical utilities, you should avoid the affected area and contact a professional.
The first goal in dealing with the aftermath of a sewage backup is mitigating further damage. This means finding and halting the cause of the backup, and beginning cleanup immediately. If improperly treated and cleaned, sewage contamination can contribute to additional property damage, as well as threaten the health and wellness of people and pets. For immunocompromised individuals this type of damage cannot be underestimated. The clean up should be always be undertaken by qualified professionals.
As mentioned before, the number priority is always safety; therefore, a qualified technician will always begin a sewage cleanup by using personal protective equipment including gloves, respirators, goggles and tyvek protective suits.
Next, it’s important to take survey of the affected area– this includes areas visibly affected by sewage damage, as well as seeking out hidden areas where sewage may have penetrated, including in drywall, behind baseboards, in insulation and under floorboards. Sewage restoration professionals have specialized moisture-detecting equipment such as infrared cameras, borescopes, and moisture meters to be able to check these hidden areas of moisture as noninvasively as possible.
After taking an exact accounting of the damage, a cleaning and drying plan is tailor-made to your damage and property. A containment may be erected to prevent cross-contamination between affected and unaffected parts of the property. Anything porous that has been touched by sewage must be discarded in order to safely sanitize the affected area. Examples of porous materials include (but are not limited to) carpet, carpet padding, upholstery, curtains, and drywall. A drying plan includes drying out the space as rapidly as possible by using a combination of removing excess liquid through pumping and extraction; promoting evaporation and dehumidification; and controlling the temperature to create an optimal drying environment. The sanitizing process includes treating the affected area with hot water several times to flush out sewage, and using appropriate biocides to help kill microbes and organic pathogens that may remain. Air scrubbers may be utilized to filter the air of contaminants.
There are several steps you can take as well to be proactive during a sewage damage on your property while waiting for a qualified restoration team. Begin sealing off affected areas to prevent people and pets from contaminating unaffected areas. If you must enter a contaminated space, wear plastic bags over your shoes and remove them before entering unaffected areas. If it is safe to do so, you can also begin discarding contaminated items. Children’s toys, clothing items, wooden cookware, and other similar items cannot be effectively sterilized and should be discarded safely for health reasons. Your restoration team can also advise if particular items are safe to keep or should be discarded.
Check in next week for Part III – Risks of Sewage Damage for more valuable tips on handling sewage damage in your property. When you need a sewage cleanup expert, you can depend on Tri State Restorations for help. We have teams throughout the DC Metro area, including the cities of Fairfax, Rockville, Frederick, Manassas, Reston and Bethesda. If you live anywhere in Maryland, Virginia or Washington D.C., we promise to arrive at your home within 90 minutes, seven days a week.