The water from a backed up sewer contains a wide variety of hazardous and toxic contaminants. When this unfortunate incident happens to you, you must take a proactive approach to cleaning, decontaminating and restoring your property to ensure the safety and health of your family. Becoming familiar with and following the actions listed below will help avoid or minimize the impact of a sewer backup.
Can My Family Safely Inhabit the House after a Sewer Backup?
In most instances, it is not safe for your family to inhabit the home until after an appropriate professional cleaning.OSHA considers the contaminated effluence to be a category 3 health hazard, and this “black water” contains toxigenic, pathogenic and other hazardous agents.
What Hazards are Commonly Caused by Sewer Backups?
According to the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) more than 120 viruses can exist in human waste and subsequently contaminate the sewage system. This includes Rotavirus, which can cause severe and occasionally life-threatening dysentery-type symptoms in children. In addition, sewage may contain Norovirus, which causes stomach flu, and Adenoviruses, which cause eye and respiratory infections.
A sewer backup can also expose your family to very infectious parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Both of these can result in severe and chronic intestinal diseases in both adults and children.
Moreover, bacterial pathogens in black water can contain Shigella, Salmonella and E. coli. They can cause airway restriction, respiratory inflammation and allergic responses, or if inhaled, may negatively affect the central nervous system.
Can I Clean Up The Mess Myself?
It may be tempting in an effort to save money, however, failing to use appropriate remediation methods to clean, decontaminate and restore your home may cause bigger problems. In fact, it is highly likely that you would spread the contamination into other rooms and expose your family to infections. Having the correct techniques, machines and cleaning solutions is critical for protecting your family’s health.
Can I Use Bleach to Clean it Up?
Unfortunately, bleach can minimize stains, however, it cannot eliminate category 3 contaminants from your home. Bleach manufacturers tout its ability to “kill 99% of common household germs,” and this is quite true, but category 3 contaminants are not “common household germs.” To decontaminate your home completely, a professional will use highly specialized cleaners that target the correct germs.
Can I Keep Any Household Items?
Generally, any item that came in contact with the black water should be disposed. Some hard surface items that are not porous can be cleaned, so if such an item is valuable, it may be cost effective to have a professional restore it. Otherwise, anything else should be discarded to protect your family’s health.
How Do I Know if Everything has been Appropriately Sanitized?
Using a professional service with extensive experience in sewage remediation will ensure your home has been successfully sanitized. In addition, you can hire a certified industrial hygienist to test the property for any lingering contaminants.