Sewage: It’s Grosser Than You Think
Part 3: Risks & Health Hazards
If you’ve checked out our last two posts, you know about how to prevent sewage damage in your property and how to respond appropriately in the untimely event of a sewage loss. This week, we’ll discuss the risks that raw sewage poses to health and property, and exactly why preventative action is so important, and why urgent steps are required when dealing with a sewage intrusion on your property.
Last week, we discussed hiring a professional when handling any kind of sewage damage. One of the principal reasons professionals should be employed to deal with sewage is because untreated sewage contains pathogens and chemicals which pose a grave threat to the lives of humans and pets. Untreated sewage must also be disposed of carefully and in accordance with local and federal laws; sewage dumped inappropriately contaminates soil and groundwater. Be cautioned that even water from a sewage backup that appears clean or clear almost certainly contains pathogens and other harmful agents.
Below is a list of common pathogens that flourish in water that originates from an unsanitary source such as sewage pipes or drain backups.
E. coli – This is one of the most commonly-known bacterial pathogens that causes illness. While many forms of E. coli do not promote disease, virulent forms can cause gastroenteritis, severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. In severe cases, E. coli infection has contributed to bowel necrosis, septicemia, peritonitis and pneumonia. Commonly found in the lower intestines of people and other warm-blooded animals, E. coli poisoning occurs from exposure to contaminated feces.
Salmonella – Another commonly-known bacteria, often responsible for food poisoning. Salmonella is a gram-negative bacteria which is especially threatening because it can survive for weeks in contaminated properties without the need for a living host or a water source. Salmonella causes gastrointestinal disease, and some strains cause typhoid fever: a potentially severe infection causing fever, malaise, skin spots, severe diarrhea, intestinal hemorrhaging, encephalitis and other life-threatening symptoms, including neurological.
Norwalk Virus – Also known as “winter vomiting virus”, Norwalk or norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastrointestinal upset in people, infecting 167 million people and causing 200,000 deaths a year. Infants, elderly and the immunocompromised are the most severely affected by norovirus. Extremely contagious, norovirus is easily transmitted through aerosolized fecal or vomit particles present in sewage.
Cryptosporidiosis – A parasitic illness caused by the protozoan Cryptosporidium, Cryptosporidiosis causes intestinal illness and is transmitted via water, soil, food that has been exposed to contaminated feces. In immunocompromised people, the symptoms can be especially severe and are frequently fatal. This infection causes watery diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. It can also contribute to cholera-like infection which is often deadly.
Campylobacteriosis – This bacterial infection is caused by Campylobacter and transmitted by ingesting contaminated food, water or feces. Like many other infections, Campylobacteriosis causes bloody diarrhea or dysentery, cramps, fever, abdominal pain, and sometimes periodontitis.
Giardiasis – Also known as beaver fever, this is a parasitic illness caused by the protozoan Giardia lamblia. This infectious agent colonizes in the small bowel and prevents the intestine from absorbing water and nutrients from food. It also causes severe diarrhea, and can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency, permanent lactose-intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome. Giardiasis can also adversely affect pets and livestock.
With any sewage damage, there is the risk of cross contamination throughout unaffected parts of the property when the affected area is not properly treated and cleaned. Improperly disposing of sewage in your property can also damage soil and groundwater supply. Bacteria such as E. coli can proliferate in water, and spread further illness if ingested. Other potential components of sewage such as nitrogen and phosphates encourage algae growth which can form potentially harmful algae blooms on water supplies. Remains of household chemicals, prescription drugs, detergents and other chemicals present in wastewater and sewage can kill plant life, crops and endanger local wildlife which depend on these resources.
The treatment of any kind of sewage damage is best left to a professional in order to avoid serious illness and further damage to health and 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.