PHOTO of sewage contamination sludge on the floor in a basement from a sewer line backupResponse to Sewage Backup, FAQs-2
Q&A on Cause & Remedy for Septic or Sewer Backup

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Sewage or septic system backup response Q&A:

Answers to frequently-asked questions about what to do if your home or building has had a sewage spill or septic system backup into, below, or around the structure.

This article series explains just what to do in response to a septic or sewer backup into or even outside and around a building or in response to building flooding: this article explains how to respond to septic system or sewer backups in a building.

We explain the inspection, cleanup and other steps necessary to sanitize a building that has suffered flooding or sewage-contaminated backups as well as steps to return the building drain, waste, vent system to operation.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

What to do When the Septic or Sewer System Backs Up At or In a Building

Evidence of sewage backup outdoors near a drain line cleanout (C) PG

Questions & answers posted originally at this article SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO - be sure you read the advice and procedures suggested there.

[Click any image for an enlarged, detailed version]

Watch out: sewage spills contain contaminants that can cause serious illness or disease. Disease causing agents in raw sewage include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses and can cause serious illnesses including Hepatitis A.

On 2018-09-02 by (mod) - protocols should be used for cleaning a furnace that was exposed to raw sewage


To have space for a detailed reply I've repeated your question and replied at the end of the article SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO

Please take a look and ask further questions as needed.

You may need to wait a few hours or to clear your browser cache and refresh the page to see that new information.

About your non-heat-related questions, you can NOT assume that the back or cavity side of drywall is clean and mold-free or pathogen free if the bottom of the walls were wet from sewage or any other flooding.

Go to a few most-suspect areas and cut test openings in the bottom of the wall drywall (just above floor trim is OK) and look inside.

On 2018-09-02 by Richard Forget

Interesting document. I did not see any verbiage so my question is what protocols should be used for cleaning a furnace that was exposed to raw sewage?

When is a furnace beyond cleaning and would need to be replaced? Your documentation also mentioned concerns about mould from prolonged exposure to raw sewage.

If the front of the drywall is not visibly showing mould contamination would it also be expected that the back side of the drywall to be the same?

On 2018-07-15 7 by ch

Toilet and drains inside house are draining/flushing fine, but sewage is backing up in basement. We have a septic system. No sign of standing water/sewage in the yard.

On 2018-07-06 by (mod) - sewage pathogens could enter your living space


NO one can assess your health risks by e-text, but certainly it seems to me entirely possible that sewage pathogens could enter your living space from a sewage backup below, riding on contaminated dust or even simply being tracked in on shoes

On 2018-07-06 by Concerned

I live in a apt complex 6apts I got a upstairs apt but my neighbor under me had a sewer backup where actually sewer was floating in her apt. How bad is it for me,, my eyes burn , constantly a headache is it hazard for me

On 2018-04-12 by (mod) - usually the lowest drain backs up

I'm not sure; usually the lowest drain backs up but then we don't know the routing, distances, trap resistance or other variables involved.

On 2018-04-11 by Anonymous

Thank you -- I am aware of the gas issue and precautions. Why is it that the tubs (lower than the toilets, usually not backed up?

On 2018-04-11 23:03:47.278927 by (mod) -

Most likely there's a blocked main drain or a failing septic system. The backup is of course unsanitary, risking disease no matter how nice the backup water looks.

Watch out: do not open, lean over, or try to enter a septic tank unless you're trained and equipped to do so, and even then, not working alone. Simply leaning over a septic tank can leave you overcome by fumes, falling into the tank, and then dead.

I agree that once a plumber confirms that the main drain piping is not clogged the inspection continues at the septic tank.



On 2018-04-11 22:56:23.413286 by Anonymous

My (septic system) has been backing up but it is almost entirely clear water coming up in the toilets. occasionally I have one shower stall that gets some brownish/clear water with some small particles -- everything else is totally clear.

I have put in high quality emergency and maintenance cultures and the problem started to go away

-- but now it has come back after three days of no problems (and almost no rain). Can anyone give me a hint on what is likely happening and what the next step should be?

Usually within 45 minutes of an occurrence the water goes down and by the next morning our family of four (three bathrooms) can use water normally. The system was revamped prior to our moving in 12 years ago.

There is a large leach field and two tanks, one a very large holding tank that I am going to check tomorrow, but which after 10 years had only water in the bottom to the leach field line.

This tank has a direct feed from one bathroom which doesn't come up as much as the others. The other tank does not show up on any prints but I have been told that it is there -

- it has not been pumped but this is the first (and sudden -- two weeks -- problem after years of no problems. We use no chemicals, only biodegradable cleaners and bacteria cultures.

We have a 27 foot above ground that caved and drained about 8 weeks ago that is close to the large tank. Hopefully this provides enough info for someone to offer some input? Thanks

On 2018-01-10 18:30:56.385117 by (mod) -


You need to have the septic system inspected to figure out if the problem is a clogged main drain (cleared by a plumber with a drain auger) or a failed septic system (more trouble and cost). You might start by just having the drain line cleared.

There are retrofit floor drain traps that will prevent backups but that won't fix the underlying problem and the backup may simply come up out of the lowest nearby plumbing fixture like a shower drain or a toilet.

On 2018-01-10 06:43:24.117491 by Greg

My basement floor drain is backing up from septic line, how do I fix that?

On 2017-12-10 02:34:43.557803 by (mod) -

That sounds like either a blocked waste line or a failed septic system - and a health hazard. If your landlord isn't responding and if the septic system is their responsibility to maintain you may have to call your local health department to as for help.

On 2017-12-09 21:48:20.707773 by Christine

I have sewage bubbling up in my yard.
It has been 11 days now.

I rent a trailer pad and so,I am not the only one using this system. However.11 days and no word as to when or how it will be dealt with. My question is, Who do I report thos health issue to?

On 2017-09-15 02:13:51.991787 by (mod) -

I'll do some more research on this and post what additional information I can find. But in general I think this at most mobile home parks the park owner is likely to be responsible for providing a working sanitary sewage or septic system and potable water

It is probably impossible to provide either of those things while the site is still flooded with contaminated floodwaters.

In my experience, and assuming that you are a homeowner not a renter, the home owner is responsible for cleanup maintenance repair of the Home itself. Have you contacted FEMA or your insurance company to ask for help?

Keep in mind that the soil underneath the home may need to be sanitized and you may need to put down plastic or take other measures to improve the sanitation in that location as well.

The condition of the piers or foundation, and tie downs or stabilizers are also important for safety when facing the next storm.

When you have safe access to the home, do let me know the condition that you find and what questions you have and I may be able to offer more specific advice.

On 2017-09-14 22:53:29.151711 by Teri

I am a victim of Hurricane Irma and my mobile home is surrounded by sewage water I can't get anywhere near my house. It's been almost a week now. I live in a 55+ park are they responsible for my damages? And what should I be watching for to make sure they are doing the right thing because so far I do not see anyone from outside of the park doing anything on the cleanup.

On 2017-08-13 03:31:40.072977 by Paul

Is there a particular something that is placed a upon the mess to start the process and help with the smell

On 2017-08-08 15:16:23.215760 by Joe

Queens, NYC. After heavy fast rain, sewer trap cap came off and sewer waste came into entire basement about 2 - 3 inches worth. Before I can pump out it dissipated and then I wet vacced the rest. I worked with gloves and boots and mask. My wife is also pregnant. Are we stupid?

The neighbors got some water also but it was clear water for them. I threw out most stuff and cut sheet rock off bottom 18" and took photos. I never called insurance company because it clearly says on my policy NO water back up insurance. What else to do?

On 2017-07-29 15:35:34.277604 by Lorraine

I have a brownstone in Brooklyn. Yesterday, When Coned came to read the meter, he discovered that i had raw sewage in my basement. immediately,

i called my plumber who came a couple of hours later. He found that the sewer cap had rotted off. he has remedied the problem. Now the cleanup, etc. it is difficult to breathe in here. What do I do? I am financially challenged. HELP!!!!!!

On 2017-06-21 15:38:06.298669 by (mod) -

What you describe sounds unsanitary to me. If the landlord is not going to repair the problem the risk is a more extensive sewage backup and a much greater cost for everyone involved. You might need to ask for help from your local health department

On 2017-06-21 12:34:47.024963 by Sarah

Hi, we were tenants in a property where the toilet backed up into the shower whenever it was slightly blocked.

It was on a septic tank. We raised this as an issue with the landlord, but we believe he has ignored this and now moved in new tenants (young family).

I feel that he should take responsibility for this rather than continue to ignore it. Is there anything I can do to raise attention to this point? Would reporting to someone help?

On 2017-06-10 14:27:44.234579 by (mod) -


A broken sewer pipe or a failed septic system that is backing-up are likely causes. You mom needs help from a plumber.

Keep in mind that sewage under a home is a health hazard. Following the repair and basic cleanup some sanitizing and then perhaps putting down of a 6 mil plastic barrier might help.

On 2017-06-10 13:35:45.495597 by Brenda

My mom lives in an older house she has grey water coming up underneath of it her house is starting to stink on the inside terribly what could be the problem

On 2017-06-10 by (mod) re: what to do about grey wastewater coming up underneath the house


A broken sewer pipe or a failed septic system that is backing-up are likely causes. You mom needs help from a plumber.

Keep in mind that sewage under a home is a health hazard. Following the repair and basic cleanup some sanitizing and then perhaps putting down of a 6 mil plastic barrier might help.

On 2017-06-10 13:35:45.495597 by Brenda

My mom lives in an older house she has grey water coming up underneath of it her house is starting to stink on the inside terribly what could be the problem

On 2017-03-26 by (mod) re: is it ok to stay in a home that has raw sewage in the crawl area?

James you asked and we replied at CRAWL SPACE SAFETY ADVICE

On 2017-03-26 by James T

Landlord is evicting my family and I do too that sewage spill in the crawl space they said that it is in habitable and unsafe and that we have to leave

Are sewer line broke in the crawl space under the house and sewage leak under the house. Do we have to move out for cleanup to be completed or can we stay in the home


Continue reading at SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see SEWAGE CLEANUP PROCEDURES & STANDARDS - where we describe in more detail the steps in removing sewage & disinfecting & cleaning a building interior after a sewage backup or spill and where we provide documents with still more detail from experts on sewage spill remediation

Or see CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR if drains in the building are slow or backing up

Or see CLOGGED DRAIN vs SEPTIC PROBLEM if you think your house drains are not blocked

Or see SEPTIC FAILURE CRITERIA for help in determining if in fact the septic system has failed

Or see these

Septic or Sewer Backup Articles

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SEWAGE BACKUP RESPONSE FAQs-2 at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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