The Dangers of DIY Sewage Cleanup: Why It's Best to Call in the Professionals
Experiencing a sewage backup in your home or business can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. While it may be tempting to try to tackle the problem yourself to save some money, attempting a DIY sewage cleanup can be hazardous and ultimately, more costly in the long run. In this blog post, we will explore the dangers of attempting to clean up sewage on your own and explain why it's best to call in professionals like SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead for water damage restoration and sewage cleanup services.
Understanding the Health Risks Associated with DIY Sewage Cleanup
Sewage backups can be both hazardous and potentially deadly when homeowners attempt to address the issue themselves. Sewage can consist of greywater (from utilities like sinks, tubs, showers, and dishwashers) or, even worse, black water, which is the water used to flush toilets mixed with the human waste that it flushes away. Besides human waste, chemical compounds and cleansers in sewage produce phosphorus and nitrogen pollution that can damage waterways and pose serious risks when entering your home. Sewage backups in your home can result from various causes, such as clogs in the home's drain pipes, tree roots, damaged sewer lines, and more.
Sewage contains up to one million microorganisms per millimeter of waste, some of which are vital for breaking down solid waste. However, pathogenic bacteria are also present and can cause health problems such as Hepatitis A and Encephalitis. Due to its ability to seep into porous materials, sewage is challenging to clean up by hand.
Furthermore, sewage contains parasitic microorganisms, such as polio, adenovirus, and enteric cytopathic human orphan (ECHO) viruses, which can cause severe health issues in humans. While the ratio of viruses to bacteria is relatively small, they are still harmful to your health. Wastewater also hosts pathogenic and saprophytic bacteria, including E. coli, Giardia Lamblia, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Direct exposure to these toxins can lead to intestinal diseases, typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery. That is why coming into contact with sewage without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following proper procedures can pose a severe threat to your health.
Mold growth is another significant risk when attempting DIY sewage cleanup. Mold exposure can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, especially in children and individuals with compromised immune systems. Flooding provides ideal conditions for mold to develop, as it only needs moisture, organic material, and optimal temperature. Alarmingly, mold can grow within just 24 to 48 hours of the incident.
However, the greatest danger is sometimes not the risk of disease, but the risk of electrocution or explosion. Never enter a flooded area or light matches until the utility companies have shut off the electric and gas service. If you detect or smell gas, immediately evacuate your home and notify the gas company. You should also enter your home with caution if you did not turn off the main power switch before the flooding occurred. Touching electrical lines, wires, equipment, and fixtures during and after a flood can be dangerous.
Addressing the underlying plumbing issue is crucial to prevent future sewage backups. Failing to fix the problem correctly can lead to recurring spills and increased costs. It's worth noting that most home insurance policies cover sewage cleanup, so hiring professionals like SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead is a practical and cost-effective solution.
The Importance of Proper Protective Gear and Equipment in Sewage Cleanup
Handling human waste or sewage comes with an increased risk of illness from waterborne diseases. Anyone involved in sewage cleanup must follow proper hygiene practices and wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize the risk of contracting diseases such as the ones mentioned earlier in this article. SERVPRO restoration technicians are trained to prioritize health and safety while dealing with sewage cleanup tasks.
Basic Hygiene Practices for Restoration Technicians
- Always wash hands with soap and water after handling human waste or sewage, before eating or drinking, and before and after using the toilet.
- Avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes, nose, or open sores and cuts while handling human waste or sewage.
- Keep open sores, cuts, and wounds covered with clean, dry bandages.
- Use waterproof gloves to prevent cuts and contact with human waste or sewage.
- Wear rubber boots at the worksite and during transport of human waste or sewage.
- Refrain from smoking or chewing tobacco or gum while handling human waste or sewage.
- Gently flush eyes with safe water if human waste or sewage contacts them.
Restoration techs who handle human waste or sewage are always provided with proper PPE, training on how to use it, and handwashing facilities. The following PPE is typically required for restoration technicians handling human waste or sewage:
- Goggles: to protect eyes from splashes of human waste or sewage.
- Protective face mask or splash-proof face shield: to protect nose and mouth from splashes of human waste or sewage.
- Liquid-repellent coveralls: to keep human waste or sewage off clothing.
- Waterproof gloves: to prevent exposure to human waste or sewage.
- Rubber boots: to prevent exposure to human waste or sewage.
To further protect restoration technicians from exposure, employees are typically required to have their Tetanus vaccinations up to date, and in most cases polio, typhoid fever, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B vaccinations as well. Adhering to these best practices and procedures ensures the health and safety of workers handling sewage cleanup tasks. That is also why sewage cleanup and related water damage restoration can become more expensive and dangerous for a DIY restorer.
The Role of Industry Standards and Certification in Professional Sewage Cleanup Services
Professional water damage restoration and sewage cleanup companies like SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead adhere to strict industry standards and guidelines to ensure that their work is effective, safe, and compliant with local regulations. Many restoration companies hold certifications from organizations like the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), which sets forth best practices for handling sewage cleanup projects.
The IICRC establishes and promotes globally recognized standards, including the IICRC S500 and IICRC S520, for water damage restoration and mold remediation, respectively. The IICRC S500 focuses on principles of water damage restoration, safety, and health, while the IICRC S520 covers mold remediation and abatement procedures. These standards provide a comprehensive framework for professionals to follow when dealing with sewage cleanup and water damage restoration projects.
By hiring a certified professional, you can be confident that your property will be cleaned and restored according to the highest standards of quality and safety. Certified professionals undergo rigorous training and examinations to demonstrate their competence in adhering to industry standards. Additionally, many professional sewage cleanup companies maintain affiliations with other relevant industry organizations, such as the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA), further ensuring their commitment to upholding best practices.
When you choose a professional sewage cleanup service with IICRC certification and affiliations to relevant industry organizations, you can trust that your property will be restored with the utmost care, professionalism, and adherence to industry guidelines. This not only guarantees the safety and health of those using the property but also provides peace of mind that the cleanup process will be completed with the highest level of expertise. This total peace of mind can be lacking in a DIY sewage cleanup project.
Finding the Right Sewage Cleanup Company: Questions to Ask and Factors to Consider
When looking for a professional sewage cleanup company, it's essential to do your research and ask the right questions. Some factors to consider include:
- Experience and expertise: Look for a company that specializes in water damage restoration and sewage cleanup, with a track record of successful projects.
- Certification and training: Make sure the technicians are trained and certified by reputable industry organizations like the IICRC.
- Insurance and liability coverage: Verify that the company has proper insurance coverage to protect you from potential liability.
- Availability and response time: Choose a company that offers 24/7 emergency services and can respond quickly to your needs.
Attempting a DIY sewage cleanup can be dangerous and may result in long-term damage to your property and health risks for you and your family. Instead, trust the professionals at SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead for comprehensive water damage restoration and sewage cleanup services. Our certified technicians have the experience, equipment, and expertise to ensure that your home or business is thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and restored to its pre-damage condition.
By choosing a professional sewage cleanup company like SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead, you can have peace of mind knowing that your property is in the hands of experienced and certified experts who are committed to delivering the highest quality service.
Don't put your health and property at risk by attempting a DIY sewage cleanup. Call SERVPRO of North Atlanta/Buckhead today at (404) 261-2925 for more information on our water damage restoration and sewage cleanup services. Let our team of restoration professionals help make it "Like it never even happened."