Hard Rains, Flooded Roads and Sewer Backups Oh My!

Once again, the morning news was showing roads with the tops of cars peeking out of the flash flood storm water like a raised hand in school. That water can pour into homes from flooded streets, but also up from sewers. A bad flood experience is even yuckier when sewage is a part of the problem.


The problem is that people who have never had storm related flooding problems need to know about them. Now!

Sewer Systems 101

For those of you who are not sewer experts, there are supposed to be two types of sewer systems in our cities. “Storm sewers” are intended to direct only storm water away from areas and buildings that may flood.  The other system is the “sanitary sewer” which is intended to carry only sewage to the place where the effluent is to be decontaminated and sent back into our waterways. There is nothing sanitary about sanitary sewers and these two systems should be separate. Whoever coined the name “sanitary sewers” was ignoring the numerous diseases and life altering contaminations that can be acquired from their contents and residue.


Those sewer systems are inadequate or are joined in a vast number of towns and cities. The result is flooded streets, backups into homes or overflow of the combined water into places other than the sewage treatment plant.   


Sanitary Sewage Backups Require Decontamination

Remember the multitude of news stories about Municipal Sanitary Authorities having difficulties meeting federal guidelines for storm and sanitary sewer water. As a taxpayer, you may feel that this is silly federal interference that will cause increased sewage rates. On the other hand, this can become real personal if it is your home with sewage floating in it.   


Testing should be conducted when there is a concern or dispute about whether a backup is the sanitary sewer or a storm sewer. If there is any chance that there is some backup of sewage into to storm sewer, have the residue tested.  There are professional testers that can perform these tests. My testing experience has been that almost every time there is a suspicion of sewage contamination, there is contamination.


The proof of sewage contamination may be important to obtaining insurance coverage for proper sewage cleanup procedures. Testing may establish responsibility for the municipal authority to help pay for cleanups. At the very least, proof of sewage contamination may put a s ewer authority on notice to make the corrections that would avoid recurrence of the backup. You will not want yourself or anyone else that you know to ever experience another sewer backup.


If you have a sewage contaminated flood, go straight to your phone and call for help. Start with your homeowner’s insurance agent and make sure that your restoration people are specialists in recovery from sewage backup. Touching sewage with an open cut or skin abrasion, inhaling spray or dust from the residue or any ingestion of the residue can result in serious health problems. An incomplete cleanup can make you or anyone else in the home sick months or years after the event. 


Chlorine Dioxide treatment is the most effective treatment currently available for sewage. Standard mold contamination is not acceptable in this potentially high-risk contamination. The link to the webpage at the end of this article will list professionals that properly perform sewage cleanups. 


The Most Asked Questions After a Flood are:

What Happens to my Stuff?

What Can be Cleaned after Flood and What Needs Thrown Out?


                First identify the items that have a high financial or sentimental value and take appropriate action.


                The short story is if an item is porous and contaminated and not on the high value list, it will probably need thrown away. This includes cardboard, carpet, padding, stuffed animals and upholstered furnishings. Mattresses and box springs are also on that list.  


                Food items that have been in contact with flood water or stored in areas with mold should be thrown away. 


                Materials that have a solid surface such as plastic, glass or metal are easily cleaned and preserved. Soap and water is the simplest cleaning method. 


                Fabric clothing is readily saved by washing in regular laundry detergent unless the fabric has been damaged. Leather is difficult to properly clean and should be handled by a professional.


                Larger appliances that have flood water are difficult to restore for safe use. Consult a professional about these items. As an example, a hard drive may be removed from a computer and salvaged, but could be damaged if the powered on.  


Food preparation appliances that have been exposed to flood water will probably need replaced. The cost of cleaning some of these items will often exceed the cost of replacement.


                Forced air furnaces can distribute contaminants through an entire home. These should be cleaned or replaced as a part of any flood recovery remediation.  

                Mold, diseases and other contaminants can and will live behind walls. Removal of house wall finishes may be required to get rid of the contaminants.  If you do this work yourself, learn and follow the principals of containment, negative air and air scrubbing. 


                Any handling of contaminated materials should be done with personal protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection and masks. 


                There are some building materials used in the construction that will always require replacement as opposed to cleaning. Fiberboard ductwork is one such example. That material is used in construction as well as in some HVAC ductwork. Insulation is another common example

In Summary

Begin work to protect your home and possessions as soon as you can safely do so.

When doing the work, yourself, consulting a professional for issues beyond your comfort zone or background can be a bargain.

An excellent contractor in our area to control and  clean up sewage problems is:
214 Ross St. Tarentum PA 15084
Phone      (888) 650-7767
Email       BMarra@UnFloodIt.com