Sewage Backup Cleanup and What Water to Worry About

Although any water leak can be exponentially damaging to surrounding property, water from sewer system backups should be considered especially dangerous.  This type of contaminated water is a haven for pathogens that can cause serious illness. The most common pathogen found in wastewater is Salmonella. However, there are many other viruses and bacteria harmful to human health, such as E. coli, Pseudomonas, Shigella, Vibrio, Mycobacterium, Clostridium, Leptospira, Yersinia, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, intestinal worms, Norwalk virus, and rotavirus, to name a few. Overflow and sewage backup cleanup requires special training and equipment to properly clean this type of contamination to a level of habitability.

Types of Water in Overflow and Sewage Backup Cleanup

There are a few different classifications of a water leak or water intrusion: clean water, gray water, and black water. The BIOClean Team technicians inspect the water leak and associated damage to determine the type of water and appropriate response. Often times “clean water” can degrade rapidly and turn into gray or black water. The technicians treat all spills as potentially hazardous and follow all EPA and OSHA guidelines within the cleanup to safely restore the residential or commercial property.

Category 1: “Clean Water”

This is water from a clean source, such as a broken clean water supply line or faucet. If left untreated, category 1 water can quickly degrade into category 2 or 3 water depending upon such factors as time, temperature, and contact with contaminants. For instance, a decomposing body in overflowing faucet (think shower, tub, or sink) water will turn the clean water to a category three (black water). This was a true case the technicians responded to, in which a woman had passed away in her kitchen with faucet on. She lay undiscovered for three weeks, and the sink had overflowed creating a flood which cascading into the empty unit below, only to be discovered by new occupants weeks later. The subsequent damage was to the unit upstairs, the unit below, all walls, beams, ceilings, and floors saturated with a degraded category three water, which, if not for the contaminant of the decomposing body sitting in the water overflow would have been “clean water” as it derived initially from the faucet and plugged sink.

Category 2: “Gray Water”

This water has a significant level of contamination that could cause discomfort or illness if ingested. Sources for category 2 water may include washing machine overflow; toilet overflow with some urine, but no feces; or dishwasher overflow. Gray water typically contains viruses and/ or bacteria and can quickly degrade into category 3 or “black water” if left untreated.

Technicians will treat this type of cleanup as if it is a category 3 in order to fully decontaminate any pathogens that may be present. The BIOClean Team certified technicians don full personal protective equipment and comply with OSHA, EPA, and IICRC WRT guidelines.

Category 3: “Black Water”

gear used, overflow sewage backup cleanup
Containment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Black water is wastewater loaded with biological material such as feces, grease, or hazardous chemicals. This water is grossly unsanitary and could cause severe illness or death if ingested. Any contact should be avoided unless by trained technicians donning appropriate PPE. Sources for category 3 water could include flooding from rivers or streams, water from beyond the toilet trap, water from the toilet bowl with feces, water contaminated with feces or bodily fluids such as blood or decomposition fluids, or standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.

24 Emergency Service

Gray water and black water such as sewage backups, unattended leaks, backups, or overflows should be considered an emergency and dealt with as quickly as possible. The BIOClean Team technicians are highly trained water damage restoration specialists with the expertise needed to safely restore your home or business. Give us a call and we can get started restoring your home or business to habitable conditions immediately!

The company owner has an extensive background in microbiology, hazmat, and decontamination within both residential, commercial, and hospital settings.