There are quite a few words in the English language that could really make people cringe when they hear these terms and the word "sewage" is definitely one of them. Most people know how it looks like, where it came from and people would be totally grossed out just imagining what composes the stuff.
Often referred to as raw sewage, septic tank waste, or sewage sludge, sewage is also called black or gray water and contains a variety of organic and inorganic wastes coming from homes, businesses or industries. Sewage can contain anything from liquid to solid household wastes, industrial effluent, human excrement and any other debris that is discharged into the sewer lines through drains and sewerage systems.
These debris and wastewater can contain harmful pathogens and disease-laden microorganisms. It is due to this fact that sewage is considered a health risk and should be dealt with immediately and accordingly whenever sewage backups or damage is encountered. In order for homeowners to take the proper course of action, they should first understand the truth and threat of sewage damage and how they could address the concerns associated with it.
Why is there a Need to Address Sewage Damage?
As mentioned earlier, sewage poses a serious health risk to people and is associated with several diseases that would be detrimental to people's health. The following are these dangers that are attributed to sewage.
* People exposed to sewage have a vulnerable state of health and they could easily contract chronic respiratory diseases and other illnesses that are brought about due to viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic causes.
* The welfare of the general public can be put at risk with the diseases associated with sewage damage. With more than 120 variants of viruses present in human excrement, sewage-contaminated water damage can pose a serious health treat to the public.
* Bacterial pathogens would definitely be present in sewage and this includes: rotavirus causing diarrhea; Giardia and Cryptosporidium which can cause chronic intestinal illnesses; Norwalk virus which can cause gastroenteritis; adenoviruses which can cause eye and lung infections; and endotoxin-producing salmonella, campylobacter, and E.Coli.
* Health risks are associated not only with direct exposure to sewage, but also through the improper sewage waste disposal from homes, businesses and industries.
* Micro-organisms and harmful bacteria can enter the human body in three possible ways. The most common way is hand-to-mouth and this includes drinking, eating and even smoking. The second way is through our respiratory system as bacteria dispersed into the air can be absorbed through the nose and lungs. The third possibility is through the skin wherein microorganisms can penetrate the body through cuts, wounds, and scratches on the surface. This is why direct contact to sewage is a health risk.
What are the Causes of Sewage Damage?
Sewage damage in a home can be caused by a variety of reasons, depending on what particular area in the house the sewage backup or spill has occurred. Some of these causes are beyond the control of the homeowner, while others are a result of negligence on the part of the homeowners The following are the possible entry points or causes of sewage damage in a home.
* Floods – whether the cause of floods is natural or manmade (main water line burst; broken levees; etc) floodwaters can bring along sewage debris and can enter the home or establishment and contaminate the area.
* Clogged / Overflowing Sewerage System – the town or city drainage system can get clogged for whatever particular reason and would cause sewage to spill over and enter an adjacent home.
* Clogged / Overflowing Home Drainage System – the drainage system of a home can get clogged for whatever particular reason, and this would cause sewage to backup into the house and cause spills into habitable areas. In such cases, proper preventive maintenance should be done on a regular basis.
* Toilet Overflow – clogged toilet bowls can cause wastewater and other waste materials to spill over onto the toilet floor and possibly into adjacent rooms. Proper education on how to take care of the toilet and prevent it from overflowing should be done regularly.
* Damaged / Filled Septic Tanks – for homes that utilizes septic tanks, there is a possibility of damage or it could get filled up and overflow onto the surface and possibly onto the house depending on the location of the septic tank.
What are the Things that a Homeowner Should First Consider?
With regards to sewage, homeowners should have to consider certain things and get to know certain facts before they try to deal with a sewage issue or problem. The following are some of these considerations that every homeowner should know and be aware of.
* Dispel the Myths – there are several myths that people may be misguided with. Knowing the following facts should dispel these myths:
- Sewage overflow from common water reservoirs are not clean and contain millions of microorganisms and other contaminants
- Chlorine or bleach is not enough to treat sewage or kills bacteria in sewage
- Certain materials like carpets that were in direct contact with sewage may not be saved
- Partially flooded homes and other establishments are not safe from the dangers of sewage.
* Know the Do's and the Don'ts with Regards to Sewage Damage – each one in the home has they're own certain responsibility and they should be aware of the following do's and don’ts
- Homeowners or people who may be in direct contact with sewage should wash their hands thoroughly and prevent the spread of diseases
- Keep children and pets away from sewage-contaminated areas as they may be vulnerable to health risks
- Surfaces affected by sewage should be treated as contaminated areas and should be avoided until proper sewage remediation is completed and the area disinfected
- Although some sewage remediation job can be done by the homeowners themselves, some work may require professional or authorized individuals who are able to deal and trained to handle sewage
- Avoid direct contact with sewage by wearing the proper clothing, which includes masks, respirators, rubber gloves, goggles, rubber boots, and safety helmets
- If you or a family member has been exposed for a prolonged time in contaminated sewage water, the best course of action is to immediately seek medical attention. This can prevent possible infection and spread of disease.
- When entering a home that is sewage or flood damage, ensure that an all-clear alert has been made. There may be structural damage that can cause safety risks and put the lives of the homeowner and those with him in danger.
- Always handle with care all products that encountered direct contract with sewage.
How to Perform Sewage Damage Remediation
The following describes a step-by-step guide on what to do during sewage backup, overflow and spills.
* Document the Damage Encountered – before you begin with any sewage remediation work, it is important that you document the incident through possible means. This is important for filing insurance claims and achieves fast and reliable processing of documentations.
* Extracting Raw Sewage – this is the most important part of the sewage contamination cleanup program and participants should wear proper clothing and protective gear. To remove the wastewater, sump pumps can be used to remove the bulk of the water and a wet-dry vacuum cleaner can be used for mopping up operations. Silt and other sewage debris should be shoveled or swept off.
* Disinfection and Deodorizing Affected Area – The nasty smell emanating from sewage is caused by the contaminants and harmful bacteria. This should be cleaned or disinfected to remove the nasty odors and kill harmful germs. Deodorizers can also be used to minimize the smell and stench left behind by the floodwater.
* Clean and Disinfect all surface that were exposed to floodwater or sewage wastewater. The following are some tips in this area.
- Clean affected surfaces by using detergent mixed with warm water. Use brush to remove solid particles or use a high-pressure water sprayer.
- Boil water and use this to sanitize all affected surfaces. Add a little chlorine-based disinfectant during the cleaning process.
- Some surfaces like linoleum are semi-porous and could be severely damaged beyond replacement when exposure to sewage is extensive. Minor exposure on surfaces can be cleaned with hot water and detergent.
- The homeowner should remove expensive materials in a flood or sewage-damaged home for proper restoration in another location. Some items, particularly those organic in nature, would best be replaced when thoroughly exposed to sewage.
* Thoroughly Dry All Areas Affected – after sewage removal and the cleanup process, proper drying should follow suit. Use air blowers or air movers to dry affected surfaces. Additional effectiveness can be achieved with the use of dehumidifiers. Maintain proper ventilation during the cleaning process.
* Seek Professional Help – some areas like crawlspaces are most vulnerable to such occurrence of sewage spills or overflows. Professional help should be obtained as they can be more capable in handling sewage.
Sewage overflows, spills and backups are one of the most unwelcome and undesirable occurrences in a home. This can cost several thousands of dollars in structural damages if left unattended. On top of this, various health risks are associated with exposure to sewage so the need to properly handle and address the issue is of the utmost importance.