One of the most difficult problems that home and business owners face is sewage. Waste waters, human and animal excrements, household and industrial wastes, and even toxic chemicals can be part of the sewage hodgepodge. Sewage is known to carry a variety of bacteria and other microorganisms that can release harmful pathogens and cause life threatening diseases to occupants of a home. When sewage backs up into a home or a business establishment, it is not only severely messy and causes cleanup headaches to owners, but it can also put occupants at greater health risks.
The following are basic but essential guidelines that every homeowner should know when dealing with the perils of sewage. These procedures can be done by owners themselves, but it is still strongly advised that owners seek help or get the advice or services of professional sewage remediation specialists.
When a home or a building experienced severe sewage damage from either floods or sewage backups, occupants should be evacuated immediately to prevent any risks to their health or well being. Babies, elderly people and sick individuals should be relocated immediately to a safe and clean place, and should stay there for the duration of the sewage remediation work.
Individuals with problems related to respiration and people with severe skin allergies should never perform sewage remediation and cleanup work. These should be relegated or assigned to capable individuals. People with open wounds should also avoid getting into contact with sewage. The unsanitary waters can cause severe infection to these wounds and result to further complications. If no one from the home is capable of handling the cleanup situation, it would be best to seek the help of restoration companies near your area. The key thing here is to perform these cleanup activities immediately to prevent proliferation of diseases that can affect occupants of the home. Molds, mildew and other health hazardous fungi can grow and proliferate within a matter of days. Severe infestations that have been neglected have caused some owners to abandon their homes.
People performing sewage remediation work should always wear proper protective clothing, particularly if directly handling sewage or wastewater. Proper gear should include, as a minimum, the following items: rubber galoshes or boots; goggles with splash protectors; rubber gloves that are preferably arm-length to fully cover all exposed skin; OSHA approved masks with microbial or HEPA filters. OSHA means Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is the agency responsible for checking and certification of all protective clothing. HEPA means High Efficiency Particulate Air filters that can strain microscopic particles from the air, including bacteria and microorganisms.
As an additional safety precaution, some restoration companies pour disinfectant into the sewage water before starting any remediation work. At least 2 gallons of disinfectant are poured into the sewage as a preliminary decontamination before any personnel can get into contact with the unsanitary waters.
Addressing the Source
Sewage damage can be caused by a variety of reasons. Most common are sewage backups due to clogged drain pipes in toilets and kitchens that prevent proper disposal of wastewater. Some can be easily dislodged by a few pumps from an ordinary toilet plunger. Common causes are too much toilet paper, hair and even food. More stubborn cases can be addressed by removing these clogs using plumber’s snake or a closet auger. These tools can be inserted onto the clogged drainpipes and then threaded across the clogged material to try and dislodge it from the pipe. A few push and pulls from these tools can probably do the job.
Some clogs can be removed chemically using liquid sosa or through ordinary household materials like vinegar and baking soda. These mixtures are poured into the clogged drains or toilets and then allowed to stay for some time. Most organic materials can be dissolved by these mixtures. The toilet or the drain is then finally washed off with boiling, not warm, water freshly off the pot. Other clogs can be difficult enough to remove and may require dismantling of the toilet, or worse, excavation of the drainpipe.
More severe backups happen when the clogs occur in main sewer lines. This will require major work by sewage companies or the local waterworks agencies. Some clogs occur in the output drains going to septic tank reservoirs, these may need excavation work and should be performed by a professional company.
Sewage backups can also happen during floods particularly if waterways and the sewerage system get filled up by floodwater at a very fast rate than what the system can handle. Sewage can overflow through manholes, or worst, backing up towards the home. Floodwaters can also seep through septic tanks, filling them up at an incredible rate causing sewage to backup through the drain pipe works and back into the home’s commodes.
Immediate removal of the sewage from the home or a building is a high priority. This can be achieved with the use of submersible sump pumps specifically designed for sewage. These pumps are submerged into the blackwater to pump it out. It can handle large particles and hard objects that may have been included in the sewage. It should be important to note that output pipes for these pumps should be long enough to be able to transfer sewage a safe distance away from the house and into a receiving disposal container. Sewage that is pumped just outside the house is both unsanitary and may cause problems of backing up into other areas of the house.
The next important step in sewage remediation is cleaning. Affected areas should be properly cleaned using industrial cleaners. An alternative cleaning solution will be a mixture of strong detergents and bleach dissolved in warm water. Dirt and grime can be retained on affected surfaces after the sewage waters are pumped out and removed. These can be cleaned and brushed off with an industrial grade scrub brush, used in conjunction with the cleaning solution. Residues can further be removed by hosing off with pressurized water. The area is then rinsed with water laced with disinfectants.
After sewage is removed, cleaned and rinsed with disinfected water, drying should be done next. Water damaged materials and surfaces are prone to mold and mildew growth, so immediate drying is necessary to avoid further health risks to occupants of the home. Air movers and air blowers can be utilized to dry out damp areas. Restoration companies can interconnect 8 or more air movers for faster drying, particularly for larger affected areas. If air movers are not available, standard electric fans can also be used. These may need to be focused on one area at a time due to the limitations of this appliance. Proper air ventilation should also be maintained to allow good circulation of air and speed up the drying process. Dehumidifiers can also be used to remove the accumulated moisture from the air and reduce the humidity in room.
Sewage carries a variety of bacteria and other pathogens that may be harmful to humans. Even when cleaning has been done, bacteria may still linger in the affected surfaces which may later proliferate and cause serious problems. To avoid this, all affected areas should be treated with effective disinfectants to kill and control these microorganisms.
Common fungicides are called glutaraldehydes and are used extensively for sewage damage cleanup work. These are broad-spectrum sporicides, meaning they can control and kill several species of these microorganisms, including fungi, bacteria and viruses. These disinfectants can kill spores that are released into the air and prevent infestations. Glutaraldehydes however may be toxic when it comes into direct contact with the skin, so proper care should be followed when handling these chemicals. Protective clothing should likewise be worn at all times when using these disinfectants.
Other disinfectants are called iodophors and phenolic compounds. These are also broad spectrum fungicides that can kill most varieties, but are also toxic when these directly come into contact with the skin. Iodophors can also stain surfaces. Quats or Quaternary Ammonium Chloride Compounds are less toxic disinfectants and could even provide a naturally pleasant odor. They are, however, not as effective as the other chemicals and can only kill some variety of microorganisms.
When using disinfectants, protective clothing should always be worn. Humidity should also be maintained in the room and this can be achieved through the use of dehumidifiers. Always check the disinfectant’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for information on proper handling of the chemical.
What to do with affected materials
Materials that have been exposed to sewage and wastewaters should be checked and sorted out for disposal or for restoration. Foods and drinks should definitely be disposed. Organic materials that can be attacked by molds should be properly checked out. These include wood, books, paper, carpets and rugs. If not very important, owners should contemplate on disposal, as restoration may pose health risks later on. These include highly absorbent materials like mattresses, pillows and beds.
Valuable items like paintings and expensive furniture can be cleaned with the same detergent-bleach solution and dried using air blowers. Do not dry out under the sun as this can create damage to the wood and surfaces. These should also be disinfected after drying.
These are simple tips and procedure on how to handle sewage and sewage backups. Homeowners can follow and use these methods when the worst case scenario occurs and sewage backflows into the house. Still, it would be wise to seek advice from professionals in this area. The key thing here is to perform remedial actions immediately and prevent further damages and risks to occur.