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Raw Sewage contains a multitude of biological agents such as bacteria, viruses and parasite that can cause serious illness and in some serious cases, even death. The health effects associated with exposure to sewage and faecal matter are serious and real.
Tetanus is a bacterium that enters the body by open wounds. If infected, there is a high risk of death. The toxin which causes tetanus; Clostridium tetani; is commonly found in sewage and soil. Anyone exposed to either should have prophylaxis tetanus vaccinations every ten years.
Leptospirosis is another infectious disease that is transmitted from water and damp earth that harbour this dangerous organism. Both septicaemia and aseptic meningitis are caused by a leptospirosis infection. The initial phase lasts between 4-7 days and is characterised by acuate headaches, chills and fever, severe muscle aches, anorexia, nausea and vomiting. The second phase is the immune phase, which follows a 2-3 day asymptomatic period, where no specific symptoms are present, but the body and immune system deteriorates. 10-15% of patients infected with leptospirosis present with Weil’s disease, haemorrhage and renal damage.
Hepatitis A is another virus with can be found in sewage spills, however, to become infected, there must be sufficient quantity of the pathogen to cause infection. This in no way limits or diminishes the seriousness of infection occurring. Hepatitis A is often mild, but can be deadly in some cases. Hepatitis A can cause fever, headaches, pain in the abdomen, nausea and jaundice. Importantly, Hepatitis A can be spread from the infected person to others. Recovery can be quite slow and may require several weeks or even months of increased rest.
Giardia and Cryptosporidium are commonly found in sewage and surface water. Both cause diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and fever. Symptoms can last for day or weeks, and in the most extreme cases, sometimes even years. Not all people infected have symptoms with is why both Giardia and Cryptosporidium pathogens are common in sewage and surface waters.
Gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, entamoeba and parasitic helminthes such as round works and flat worms are also of a concern to those who handle or undertake sewage contamination clean ups.
E.coli can cause gastro-intestinal diseases, and if inhaled, repertory and airway problems, headaches, fever, tiredness and nausea.
The risk of exposure to all the above-mentioned pathogens and parasites depends on the microbes present, duration of exposure, method of exposure and general health of the person exposed. The risk of exposure when handling sewage can be dramatically reduced by effective and immediate response by a trained experienced sewage and faecal matter clean up expert.
Most of us don’t really know how to clean up water damage. Thankfully, it’s not a regular occurrence. But when water unexpectedly enters your home, there are some things you can do to minimize the damage. Here’s a to-do list for keeping your head—and your belongings—above water.
- If possible, stop the water at its source.
- Turn off the electricity and remove small electrical devices from the areas with excess water, if it is safe to do so.
- Avoid walking on wet carpet.
- Hang draperies and pin up furniture skirts to avoid contact with wet floors
- Remove any breakables; moisture-sensitive and high value items, as well as items that may stain floor coverings
- Wash your hands after handling damaged items.
- Avoid turning on fans or heating and air conditioning units as they may spread contamination if the situation is sewage-related
If you don’t know how to clean up water damage—and most people don’t—refer to these tips during an emergency. It wouldn’t hurt to review them occasionally so they are fresh in your mind if you’re faced with the scenario. Knowing what to do until our expert technicians arrive can only help to minimize the overall damage and costs.
Water damage only gets worse as time goes on. That’s why it’s critical to address the problem sooner rather than later. Here’s a closer look at the effects of water damage over time:
- Within minutes, flood water damaged properties show signs of damage such as water being absorbed into walls, floors, upholstery and furnishings.
- Within the first 24 hours, drywall begins to swell and break down, metals begin to tarnish, furniture begins to swell and crack and a musty odour appears. Within the first week mould and mildew grows and spreads, metals rust and corrode, paint blisters, wooden floors swell and warp and a serious biohazard contamination is present.
- If a property with Flood Water Damage is left for longer than 1 week, restoration time and costs increase dramatically, and replacing contaminated materials and structural elements of the property will be extensive. During this time, claim costs begin to skyrocket and serious occupant health hazards may occur.
We simply can’t emphasise enough the significance of addressing water damage as quickly as possible. Refer to our tips for what to do before the experts arrive, but don’t wait to call in the professionals. Too many things can go wrong if the problem is neglected or you try to clean it up yourself.
Even worse, don’t rely on non-certified technicians. Cleaning up water damage is not a job for amateurs.
When evaluating the types of water damage in an emergency water removal situation, it helps to know that water losses fall into three categories: clean water, grey water and black water. Once these categories are determined, it is easier to introduce the proper drying techniques, and it helps to designate what items can and cannot be restored.
Category 1: Clean Water
Although not considered sewage, clean water can become hazardous if left in contact with hygroscopic surfaces. This water originates from a source that does not pose substantial harm to humans. It may include broken water supply lines, sink overflows with no contaminants, appliance malfunctions involving water supply lines, melting snow, falling rain water, broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additive.
Category 2: Grey Water
Grey water is generally considered unsanitary and can cause illness to humans and can be caused by washing machine, toilet, waterbed or dishwasher leaks. Like all sewage spills, grey water damage is intensified by the time taken to remedy the spill and temperature of the building and location the spill has occurred in. Category 2 sewage spills should be remediated as a priority to ensure contamination and pollutants are kept to a minimum.
Gray water may contain chemicals, bio-contaminants and other forms of contamination, including physical hazards, and is not suitable for consumption. Carpet pads affected with Category 2 water must be removed and disposed of properly. Even carpet that is salvaged must be cleaned with hot-water extraction. If left untreated, Category 2 water becomes Category 3 water in 48 hours or less.
Category 3: Black Water
Category 3 sewage is black water. Black water always contains pathogens making it a serious health and bio-hazard contamination. Black water can consist of, but is not limited to, sewage that contains urine and faeces, chemical waste, medical waste or sea water, river, water or ground surface water containing silt and organic matter. Sewage Contamination Clean up of a Category 3 nature must be remediated as a priority. Failure to do so will result in all materials such as flooring, walling and concrete to be removed. Whenever a sewage backflow occurs, the health of workers and occupants should be the primary concern. Always remove and properly dispose of carpet and padding that has been affected by a Category 3 water loss.