A sewage spill is something property owners dread and for many good reasons. When sewer pipes break or septic systems back up, the resulting mess is terrible to look at, produces a foul odor, and poses a threat to the health of everyone who makes contact with anything in the affected area. Restoring the area to a condition that is safe and habitable requires the services of sewage cleanup specialists.
Black water is a classification used to describe water than contains solid waste, fungi, and bacteria. This is the most dangerous type of spill to deal with. Property owners should never make the mistake of attempting to clean up a black water spill without the help of professionals. The experts at Restoration 1 of Portland specialize in water damage restoration and sewage cleanup, you should contact them if you do not want to deal with it yourself.
The contaminants in black water include parasites, viruses, bacteria, and fungi that can lead to serious health problems. The long list of illnesses associated with exposure to black water includes tetanus, hepatitis A, bacterial infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and leptospirosis. Cleaning technicians can test for various indicator organisms to verify a sewage contamination. Fecal coliform, enterococcus, Escherichia coli, and coliform are organisms often found in cases where human waste contamination is a problem.
Among the top priorities of any response team is locating the source of the spill. Before any cleanup can occur, it will be necessary to make the proper repairs to eliminate further contamination. A clog in the main sewer line is a common cause of residential septic system failure. Old lines develop cracks over time and eventually will collapse or break. In some neighborhoods, tree roots invade the pipes or crush them as they grow.
Special training is necessary to remove the contaminated water safely and sanitize the affected area. Workers must wear protective clothing when cleaning up a sewage spill. A professional will know the proper concentration of sanitizer to use and is aware of the dangers of mixing chemicals that can react together to produce toxic vapors. Clean-up crews have access to the commercial grade equipment they need to extract the water. They will transport it to a location where it can be discarded safely and according to local, state, and federal health regulations.
If the spill occurs on vinyl, concrete, tile, or some other nonabsorbent surface, the cleaning crew will use wet vacuums or mops to remove any semi-solid material and water. Disinfecting the area requires using the proper concentration of sanitizer. Chlorine solutions may be used to sanitize walls, floors, appliances, and food preparation areas. Higher concentrations are necessary for disinfecting kitchen surfaces. Alternative disinfectants include quaternary solutions and iodine.
In some cases, hydrated lime is used to disinfect the spill site. Only people with the proper experience and knowledge should apply hydrated lime. This caustic material kills the bacteria and microbes by raising the pH to at least 12 for a minimum of one hour. A pH level of 12 or greater destroys the cell membranes of harmful pathogens. When lime is used, it is necessary to restrict access to the area for at least 24 hours following treatment.
A qualified technician has the experience necessary to assess property damage and determine if certain materials are worth salvaging or restoring. Absorbent materials, including carpeting and carpet padding, can be difficult if not impossible to sanitize adequately if saturated in contaminated water. Books and documents are often discarded after exposure to water from a sewage backup but special techniques may be used to salvage certain valuable items. Chip-board cabinets, anything made of foam rubber, mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture pieces are other items that are rarely salvageable. Items that should always be discarded include medical supplies, stuffed animals, cosmetics, food, and baby toys.
Items with hard surfaces are usually easy to clean. These include items made of hard plastic, glassware, dishes, silverware, and most solid wood objects. Special cleaning and sealing techniques may be necessary for un-coated surfaces made of wood. Property owners will sometimes have to weigh the value of the item compared to the cost of restoration. The best way to handle a chair with a wood frame and an upholstered seat, for example, is to save the frame and replace the seat padding and covering. Some articles of clothing and bedding items may be cheaper to replace than having everything professionally laundered or dry-cleaned.
After extracting water from the spill site, workers will pull up any carpeting to inspect the condition of the material and the carpet padding. When clean up occurs quickly enough, it may be possible to dry the carpet and save it. If the carpet or padding show signs of mold growth, they will have to be discarded. If replacement is the only option, the soiled materials are taken to a facility authorized to dispose of solid waste.
The experts will sort through everything in the affected area to determine which structural materials are still usable and which should be thrown away. They will usually throw away any saturated wallboard and trim pieces. Plastic, vinyl, and hollow wood doors contain spacers made of cardboard that collapse when exposed to water. In most cases, it is possible to clean and save wet sills and wall studs for use in restoration. It may be possible to save wood wall paneling even if the technicians have to remove it temporarily to replace damaged insulation in the wall space. Industrial strength air movers and dehumidifiers are used to facilitate and speed up the drying process.
Property owners should hire a company that hires only qualified cleanup technicians with industry certification. Members of the Indoor Air Quality Association, or IAQA, receive special training to earn certification by the American Council for Accredited Certification, or ACAC. Through IAQA, members have access to assessment and remediation training courses to ensure they follow industry guidelines and standards when cleaning up sewage spills. Any reputable company offers reliable around the clock emergency response to ensure that the clean up procedure begins as quickly as possible. A prompt response can minimize damage and save property owners thousands of dollars in expensive restoration and replacement costs.