Water and Sewage Cleanup
Sewer water can contain all types of toxic and hazardous containments. Having your property properly cleaned can help ensure the health safety of your family or employees. Answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding Sewer Backup.
Is it safe for my family to be in here after a sewer backup?
Answer: No. Water that comes from a beyond a trap (p-trap) of a sewer system needs to be treated as a health hazardous situation. Category 3, also known as black water, is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic or other harmful agents.
What are the hazards with sewer backups?
Answer: According to the IICRC S500 Standard 3rd Edition, there are over 120 different viruses that can be excreted in human feces and urine and find their way into sewage. These can include Rotavirus, causing severe and sometimes life-threatening diarrhea in children, Adenoviruses, causing respiratory and eye infections, and Norovirus, a significant cause of gastric flu or stomach flu. There are highly infectious parasitic agents like Giardia and Cryptosporidium that can cause chronic and severe intestinal diseases in both children and adults. Bacterial pathogens in sewage can include Salmonella, Shigella and Escherichia coli. These gram-negative organisms contain endotoxins that are released at the time of cell death and destruction. Endotoxins can cause respiratory inflammation, airway restriction, create the potential allergic and infectious disease responses and when inhaled they may adversely influence the central nervous system.
Can I just clean up a sewer backup myself?
Answer: Improper remediation activities to clean and restore property can cause more and bigger problems. It is possible to spread the contaminated sewer problem from one room to other rooms very easily. Knowing how to remove and clean a sewer backup is essential for a successful restoration of your property. It would be a good idea to consult with a professional experienced and preferably certified in sewer restoration.
Can I just use bleach to clean up a sewer backup?
Answer: Although bleach is a common solution for most people, it is a poor solution for sewer backups. It may do a good job of making stains disappear, however it does a poor job of making the contamination of sewer (category 3) water disappear. We understand that the label may say “It kills 99% of common household germs.” We just don’t think that contamination from sewer water falls under the category of “common household germs.” We had a customer who cleaned up a sewer backup with bleach twice. Once we were hired we had a certified industrial hygienist inspect the house for and he still found high levels of contamination.
What can I keep after a sewer backup?
Answer: Generally, anything that came in contact or possibly came in contact with sewer water that can absorb is usually disposed of. Hard surface items that don’t absorb can be cleaned and restored. Due to all the health hazards of sewer backups we like to operate on the premise “If in doubt, do without!” Is keeping that item worth your health and or your family’s health?
How do I really know if everything is cleaned up?
Answer: Anyone who says, “Everything is all done, see it looks brand new and smells new too,” is full of crap. Maybe that’s how they cleaned up the sewer backup. The only way to “know” if a sewer backup has been successfully restored is to have it tested. We recommend the services of a certified industrial hygienist who is independent. It’s not a good idea to hire someone to restore your property and then use “their” guy to check it. Look in the phone book or get on the internet and search for a “certified industrial hygienist.”
Let’s suppose your sewer stops up?
Sewer back-ups are normally unexpected and constantly result in a mess. At best the backup requires uncomfortable clean-up and at times costly damage.
Who is going to repair the problem?
Typically that is dependent upon whether the stoppage is your non-public sewer line or the municipality main. If it’s within the municipality’s main, they should fix the problem as quickly as possible and keep you up to date regarding what is being undertaken.
If the condition is with the private sewer connection linking your place to the municipality main sewer line, we will advise you to get your sewer sewer connection fixed. Typically it is against the law for your municipality to work on private property.
Just who will cover this?
The property owner is going to have to pay for the work. For this reason one must always make certain your homeowner’s insurance policy covers sewer backups.
Can the City do anything at all that is going to help my family?
Absolutely! City crews will help with the immediate cleanup to deal with community medical issues.
Is the City going to compensate my family for any damage if the back up is within the City main sewer sewer connection?
On the condition that we had advance information that the City main had been responsible,and also that we did not fix the problem.
Is this the Cities policy or law?
- This is law, public resources can not be paid out meant for non-public purposes.
- The City will be liable for its real estate, not your connection to the primary.
- The City will only be responsible for loss if we learned there was a problem & did not fix it inside a reasonable time frame.
How can I discover if I will be reimbursed?
In the case the sewer stoppage isn’t upon your private sewer connection, you may register a claim. The lawyers will research it to discover if City is liable which includes prior notice on the City sewer system’s problem. Homeowner accountability for the sewer sewer line runs past the real estate line and even completely to the location where the sewer connects in to the City main.
Install a back flow valve to prevent sewer backups. City ordinance will involve a back flow control device on brand new along with newly-repaired sewer lines. However , you may get a plumber add a back flow valve to your sewer connection right now. It’s the ideal safeguard to protect against sewer sewer backups.
A back flow control device can stop sewage from backing up into your house. Clean it regularly to keep it functioning. The valve closes any time waters comes in it from the wrong course. Should a clog take place, the back flow control device should stop the sewage from backing up inside your household. For anybody who is downhill from the sewer main, ensure that a back flow control device has been put on your sewer connection – particularly when your household is due to an older area of the community. Regardless if your house is at a borderline location, installing a back flow valve can be a great precaution. Once the valve is installed, thoroughly clean it every now and then to have it operating right.
Ensure that you own adequate insurance coverage
Sewer backups may not be routinely included in most homeowner’s insurance plan plans. Check your coverage to be sure that you will be insured for damages or injuries resulting from sewer backups.
Don’t forget, the City will not be an insurance provider. The City may just pay for damages or injuries with extremely limited circumstances put down for legal reasons.
Don’t expect you’re protected! You need a specific choice for protection. Talk to your insurance policy broker.
Prevent potential sewer backups
- Call a licensed plumber at the initial sign of a issue before the sewer backs up. If your drains are functioning poor, as an example. They will come and investigate the sewer.
- Dump oil as well as fats using your trash can, certainly not down the drain. Although you may run it through a trash disposal, grease in drains can accumulate and harden directly into a plug.
- Grow trees and large shrubs away from sewer lines. Plant’s roots grow towards breaks or cracks in lines. Whenever plants roots get within the line, they block the line.
- Never connect French drains, sump pumps, or other flood regulating systems on your sanitary sewer. It is illegal as well as the trash and silt will clot your sewer line. Contact a Licensed plumber to remove unlawful connections.
If your basement has flooded, there are some really important things you should know. When in doubt, don’t enter the flooded area until you are told it is safe by a professional qualified to do so.
First and foremost, consider your family’s health and safety.
Entering a wet basement could be hazardous! Before you enter your basement, consider the following:
- Electrical Shock – When your basement is wet, there is a legitimate risk of electrical shock. If you are positive that you can safely do so, turn off your home’s power at the main breaker switches.
- Gas leaks – Protect yourself against gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave the house right away and then contact your gas company immediately.
- Pollutants – Sewage can contain bacteria and transmit disease and the floodwater in your basement may have originated from the sanitary sewer and contain raw sewage. Wear protective items including gloves, safety glasses, a face mask and be sure to wash thoroughly after any contact with sewage or items touched by sewage.
- Chemicals – Cleaning may expose you to a wide range of contaminants, including those from the cleaning agents being used, as well as those that may have entered from flood waters. When you get to the cleaning stage, be sure to ventilate well and limit your exposure to contact and exposure as best you can.
- Structural damage – While this is not that common, a flood with certain conditions may weaken walls or even ceiling structures. If there is any concern that structural integrity has been compromised, or you simply don’t know, leave the area and call in the experts.
Depending of the nature of the flooding, also consider:
- If the flooding is due to a burst water supply pipe in your home, and if you are safely able to do so, shut off the main incoming water valve as this could help minimize the damage. You will probably know this is the case because the water will be clean, and likely coming down through the house from an upper level. In the future, make note of where this shut-off is and keep access clear.
- If the flooding is due to a sewage backup (or you are not sure), do not flush the toilet, run a washing machine, dishwasher or any other feature with a drain since this is likely to increase the flooding.
Call your insurance company
They will immediately advise you on any standard clean-up procedures, contractors to call, and claim procedures. In general:
- Make sure to take lots of photos and document items that have been damaged or need to be replaced. Before you head out and start buying new stuff, make sure you are familiar with the coverage you have with your insurer. Keep any and all receipts for emergency work done, purchases or repairs.
- Based on your insurance, you may be covered for such an occurrence. Even if you have insurance coverage, the homeowner is responsible for the clean-up, repairs and replacement of lost property.
- An insurer is more likely to look favourably on homeowners wanting to undertake work on their own to reduce the likelihood of future flooding. Repeat claims with no efforts to reduce future risk may be sufficient for an insurance company to drop that form of coverage in the future.
Report your backup to the municipality
Let your City know that flooding has occurred. Documentation of flood locations helps municipal staff determine if any work is required on the municipal infrastructure.
This data is used by the municipality to track basement floods to assist in directing inspections and maintenance on the municipal infrastructure.
- Wear protective clothing, included disposable overalls, protective eyewear, gloves and a face mask.
- Beware of electrical equipment and outlets. Shut off the electrical if possible. Make sure any appliances are completely dry before plugging in again.
- Provide as much ventilation as you can, with open windows if the weather permits, and fans. This will help to get things dry.
- Salvage your belongings and remove as much as you can out of the flood zone. The quicker items are removed, the more likely rot, mildew, molds and warping can be avoided.
- Keep an itemized list of what you are pulling out and organize by what can be salvaged and what needs to be discarded. Your insurer may help you or be involved with this process.
- Remove rugs, or roll them back out of the wet area. Any form of flooring that could have absorbed fluids needs to be removed and likely discarded, including wood flooring, under layers, and so on.
- Completely dry and disinfect fixed-in-place features such as the foundation floor, walls, furnace, and any other objects.
- Eliminate excess water using old rags, towels, and other things. A wet/dry vacuum may also help with this.
- Carpets and furniture that can be salvaged may need to be professionally cleaned and dried.
- Some minor items may be suitable for placing in regular garbage pickup, but in all likelihood, a trip or two to the dump may be required.
Future Planning – Protecting Your Home
- Before you start with the rehabilitation, think about what you want to do in the basement in the future. Are you ready to commit to refinishing it the same way? Are you going to do any extra work to protect yourself from flooding in the future?
- Consider fully tearing out exterior framing and dry-wall (if the damage is bad enough). One of the big problems about finished basements is that you develop cracks in your floor or walls and not even know it. So, for example, you may have just flooded by a sewage backup, but cracks developing in the foundation floor or walls might mean that another flood is just around the corner.
Renovation time is the best time and possibly the only time to find for these sorts of problems and fix them.
- Consider storing items in watertight containers, and keeping things raised off the floor.
- Consider changing or upgrading your foundation drainage system.
- Consider a sump pump and/or a backwater sanitary valve.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR SEWER BACKS UP OR YOUR BASEMENT FLOODS
- Check the toilets, sinks and waste pipes and clear any blockages to ensure that the water is not due to an internal plumbing problem. (Roof vent blockages can cause gurgling).
- If that does not solve the problem, call 3-1-1 and City staff will come out to determine the cause of the
IF YOU HAVE A BACK-UP OF WATER AND/OR SEWAGE IN YOUR BASEMENT: problem. Be patient; City staff will respond as soon as possible. Make sure someone is home to let the staff person in.
- Don’t use toilets and sinks unless it is absolutely necessary. (Any water sent down the drain will likely end up in your basement.)
- Locate the building sewer clean-out caps for your home. They are usually in the basement floor near the front wall, close to the water meter. Make sure that the clean-out caps are not blocked by furniture or other things and that they are accessible to City staff. Do not attempt to open the clean-out.
BACTERIA OR VIRUSES
- Immediately add small amounts of chlorine bleach to standing water.
- Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Water contaminated with sewage may contain a number of bacteria and viruses, which can affect health. The major health concern is related to organisms that affect the gastrointestinal tract causing vomiting and diarrhea (gastroenteritis), and those that affect the liver (Hepatitis A, yellow jaundice). You can contract these illnesses by consuming contaminated food or water, or by putting contaminated hands or articles into your mouth. These bacteria and viruses are not transmitted through the air. Skin irritation or infection can also occur from contact with contaminated water, particularly if open cuts or sores are present.
Whenever floodwater is threatening gas-fired equipment like a furnace, hot water heater or stove, immediately call your local gas company. A technician will be dispatched to turn off the gas service to any affected buildings.
It is NOT safe to enter your basement if the water level has reached any plug, electrical outlet, extension cord or baseboard heater.
If the water has not yet reached any plug, electrical outlet or baseboard heater and your distribution panel and main switch are still above water, you may be able to shut off the power yourself. Wear rubber boots when walking on a wet surface. If you plan to shut off the electricity at the main switch, first make sure the surface you are standing on is dry and that you are not touching metal (pipes, ladder, etc.). Since dry wood is not a good electrical conductor, stand on a wooden stool or chair, and then shut off the main switch using a dry wooden stick such as a broom handle.
If this is not possible, or if the water has reached the panel or main switch, do not touch anything. Call an electrical contractor licensed to work in your city. They can shut off the power at an outside meter, hydro pole or transformer.
Before turning the power back on after the water subsides, call an electrical contractor to check your installation and confirm that there is no risk of electrocution or fire if the power is restored.
- Take photos and videos of damage.
- Contact your insurance agent.
- Never mix ammonia and bleach.
- Cities offer compassionate grants to help pay for damages caused by sewer backups and a program to help cover the costs of installing protective plumbing devices to reduce the chance of a sewer backup happening again.
WHAT TO KEEP OR DISCARD
Subject to confirmation with your insurance company’s evaluation, the following may have to be discarded if they have been in contact with wastewater:
- All insulation materials, and all less expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys and pillows
- Furniture coverings, padding and cushions. The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but must be cleaned, disinfected, rinsed and dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat.
- Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times in cold water treated with chlorine bleach, and dry quickly
- Separate valuable papers. You may wish to ask a lawyer whether to save the papers themselves or just the information on them.
RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES FOR CLEANING
- Wear protective clothing: overalls, gloves, protective eyeglasses, rubber boots and a facemask
- Stay clear of electrical equipment and do not attempt to change any fuses if you are standing in water or on damp ground
- If you can, shut off the electrical power
- Open windows to allow fresh air in
- Ventilate and ensure that there is adequate airflow to remove any fumes. Dehumidify the house until it is completely dry.
- Immediately add small amounts of chlorine bleach to standing water
- Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum
- Wash and wipe down all surfaces and structures with chlorine bleach, ensuring that there is adequate cross ventilation to remove fumes. Then rinse again.
- Disinfect the walls and the floor using a chlorine bleach and water solution. Wait for the area to dry completely before re-using it.
- Wipe down surfaces that have not been directly affected with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts cold or tepid (not hot) water, mixed with a small amount of non-ammonia dishwashing detergent (chlorine bleach and ammonia, when mixed together, produce toxic fumes). Then rinse.
- Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
- Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove wall materials at least 50 cm above the high-water lines.
- Rinse then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Replace flooring that has been deeply penetrated by floodwater or sewage.
- Carpets must be dried within two days. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded. Homeowners can’t effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves – qualified professionals are required.
- Clean and deodorize carpets or have them professionally cleaned.
- Clean all interior cavities with a solution of water, chlorine bleach and non-ammonia dish detergent and dry thoroughly, checking often for mould and killing it with chlorine bleach. Ensure that structural members are dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities in walls, crawl spaces, etc.
- Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
- Scrub affected furniture with antibacterial soap and water and place outside to dry (weather permitting) or steam clean.
- Machine wash contaminated clothes in hot water and soap, adding one cup of chlorine bleach to the wash water.
- Throw out canned goods, herbs, vegetables and any other foods that may have been affected by floodwaters.
- If your freezer has lost power, move frozen food to a neighbor’s freezer, or throw it out if you cannot keep it frozen.
- Articles such as stuffed toys and paper goods contaminated by floodwaters should be discarded because they cannot be properly sanitized. Items of particular value that show no visible contamination pose a minimal risk once they are completely dry.
- Minor debris can be left out for regular garbage pickup.
BEFORE MOVING BACK IN
- If appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels have been flooded, do not energize or return to service until they have been inspected by a licensed electrical contractor.
- If they have been soaked, replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return duct pans and have them cleaned out or replaced. Replace insulation inside water heater, refrigerators and freezers if it has been wet.
- Flush and disinfect floor drains and sump pits using diluted chlorine bleach, and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime.
REPAIRING SEWER LINES
Cities regularly clean there sewer systems. They inspect and monitored using closed circuit television. Repairs are completed if problems are found, but unanticipated problems can occur, occasionally resulting in the backup of water or sewage. Most Cities have expert staff on duty at all times to respond to these situations.
CITY RESPONSE TO A SEWER BACKUP OR FLOOD:
- City staff will check the sewer pipe near your house to make sure that it is working properly. If the problem is in the City’s sewer line, it will be fixed as soon as possible.
- If the problem is not in the sewer, City staff can help you at no charge to identify the problem in your home’s connection to the sewer, if resources allow.
- If the problem is in the houses wastewater drain system you will be advised to contact a plumber.
- If the problem is in one of the lines connecting to the main sewer, repairs may be the building owner’s responsibility, the City’s responsibility, or a combination of the two.
Responsibility can only be assigned after City staff have reviewed all data.
THE COST OF REPAIRS
- The cause and location of the blockage usually determines who pays the cost of clearing the pipe.
- Generally speaking, blockages on sewer connection lines are the responsibility of the homeowner, unless the blockage is due to roots from a City-owned tree or the pipe has collapsed on City property.
- When the cause of the flooding is a blockage in the main sewer, generally located under the street, the City will clear the blockage at no charge to the homeowner.
- If the cause of the flooding is a blockage in the pipe that connects a home’s drain system to the City sewer system, a contractor must be called in. As the homeowner, you’ll have the option of selecting the contractor of your choice.
- If you choose to use the City’s contractor, City staff will supervise the work and a 15 per cent charge will be added to the contractor’s invoice for this service. The volume of work contracted by the City allows for very competitive pricing for this service, more than offsetting the administrative charge.
- If, during the course of the repair work, it is determined that the problem is in the City’s line, you will not be charged for the repair work or you will be reimbursed for contractor fees already paid. . The amount reimbursed will be up to the amount normally paid by the City to its contractor for the same service. Requests for reimbursement of costs should be directed to the City’s Risk Management Section.
- In somes cases, repair costs may be shared between the City and the homeowner.
Property owners who have incurred damages to their home or contents should contact their insurance company for assistance. Your insurer normally submits a claim to the City for investigation and response, on your behalf.