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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS
ALTERNATING BED SEPTIC SYSTEMS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BACKWATER VALVES, SEWER LINE
BOD WASTEWATER TEST
BOOKSTORE, SEPTIC SYSTEMS
CESSPOOL SAFETY WARNINGS
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
CHEMICALS & TREATMENTS for SEPTICS
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
CLEANOUTS, PLUMBING DRAIN
CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
D BOX TROUBLESHOOTING
DEFINITIONS OF SEPTIC SYSTEM TERMS
DISTRIBUTION-BOX INSPECTION, SEPTIC
DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
DRIVING or PARKING OVER SEPTIC COMPONENTS?
DRYWELL DESIGN & USES
EFFLUENT RETENTION TIME
FILTERS SEPTIC & GREYWATER
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
GARBAGE DISPOSAL vs SEPTICS
GRAVELLESS SEPTIC SYSTEMS
GRAVITY/SIPHON DOSING SYSTEMS
HOME BUYERS GUIDE to SEPTIC SYSTEMS
HOME SELLERS GUIDE TO SEPTIC INSPECT
HOW SEPTIC SYSTEMS WORK
LAGOON SEPTIC SYSTEMS
LEACHFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
MEDIA FILTER SEPTIC SYSTEMS
MOUND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS & SMELLS DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS, PLUMBING SYSTEM
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
PLANTS & TREES OVER SEPTIC SYSTEMS
PRESSURE DOSING SEPTIC SYSTEMS
RAISED BED SEPTIC SYSTEMS
SAND BED SEPTIC SYSTEMS
SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY
SEPTIC BACKUP PREVENTION
SEPTIC BACKUP REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC CLEARANCE DISTANCES
SEPTIC CODES & REFERENCES
SEPTIC D-BOX INSPECTION
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD INSPECTION & TEST
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LIFE
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD RESTORERS?
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC FIELD INSPECTION
SEPTIC FLOOD RESPONSE
SEPTIC HOLDING TANKS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC METHANE GAS
SEPTIC or SEWER CONNECTION?
SEPTIC PUMPING REPAIR
SEPTIC / CESSPOOL SAFETY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC SYSTEM PUMPS
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TANK BAFFLES
SEPTIC TANK COVERS
SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO FIND
SEPTIC TANK INSPECTION PROCEDURE
SEPTIC TANK LEAKS
SEPTIC TANK LEVELS of SEWAGE
SEPTIC TANK PUMPING PROCEDURE
SEPTIC TANK PUMPING REASONS
SEPTIC TANK PUMPING SCHEDULE
SEPTIC TANK SAFETY
SEPTIC TANK SIZE
SEPTIC TANK TEES
SEPTIC TESTS: DYE & LOADING TESTS
SEPTIC TEST VOLUMES & DYE AMOUNTS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in buildings
SEWAGE GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE LEVELS in SEPTIC TANKS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWAGE PUMP CLOG DAMAGE
SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TOILET FLUSHOMETER VALVES
TOILET INSTALLATION PROCEDURE
TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY
TOILET PLUGS, SEWER BACKUP
TOILET REPAIR GUIDE
Toilet Types, Flush Methods
TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER QUANTITY USAGE GUIDE
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WETLAND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article explains how to deal with and test for sewage backup contamination, sewage contamination testing, inspection, and cleanup- remediation in residential and commercial buildings. If you have had sewage back up and spill out of toilets into the building, cleanup is needed and you may face bacterial hazards. If you have had a sewage backup or burst house drain pipe in your building this document offers some advice on how to test for sewage contamination, bacterial and viral hazards, and links to sewage spill cleanup and bacterial hazard information regarding sewage and septic spill contamination. We explain why and how testing for sewage contamination is performed and we discuss the urgency of proper cleanup following a sewage backup or spill in a building.
The photo above shows what dirt and sewage sludge may look like in a basement after a sewer line backup. See BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS to try clearing your blocked drain before going to more drastic measures.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
If your building has had a septic or sewage system backup into the structure see SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO and also see SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION. At SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP we discuss how to test for bacterial or other pathogens in a building - tests that may be useful after a sewage spill cleanup in order to assure that the building is acceptably clean.
At SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS we list the pathogens and contaminants commonly found in sewage and in sewage backup waters. In this article series we explain the causes of sewer or septic backups into buildings, the health hazards, testing, and cleanup of sewage backups, and the cure or prevention of future sewage or septic backup problems.
Checking buildings for indoor air quality or other contaminants which may affect occupant health should not omit inspecting and taking site history for evidence of sewage or septic system backups into the structure or basement or crawl space areas below the structure. Gray water and black water (sewage) can cause a wide range of fungal, bacteriological, viral, and parasitic hazards in buildings.
The photo at left shows evidence of raw sewage overflow in the crawl space under a home. Although a new waste line was installed (the white pipe at the top of the photograph) no cleanup has been performed.
Both a one-time event and recurrent sewage leaks into a building would be a concern, particularly if prompt and competent cleaning were not performed. If recurrent sewage contamination has occurred more extensive building cleaning and treatment are likely to be required.
One reason that experts recommend very prompt treatment following a sewage backup in a building is the wish to avoid transmission of bacterial contamination to other building areas.
Examples of sewage bacteria and virus transmission might be by movement of people from contaminated areas to other building areas (tracking contaminated soil), and air movement of aerosolized particles or contaminated dust through the building by natural convection, heating and air conditioning equipment, or other sources of air and dust movement.
While sewage may contain many pathogens harmful to building occupants, testing for this problem usually focuses on indicator organisms including total coliform, fecal coliform, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Enterococcus as these species are expected in human sewage waste. They are potentially harmful themselves as well as serving as an indicator of sewage contamination.
Typical sampling methods to test for sewage contamination in buildings include use of sterile swabs on sample surfaces both in the suspected area and as a control in other building areas where low or no contamination is expected.
Bulk samples of debris or building materials may also be collected, such as drywall suspected of having been wet with a sewage backup. Samples are sent to a qualified laboratory for culture and examination for these bacteria.
Since there are a variety of tests for bacteria and for possible sewage contamination, specification of the definitive lab test for sewage contamination is important where health concerns are at stake. Be sure to review the test choices with your laboratory before ordering a specific test as test accuracy and cost vary widely.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sewage Spills in Buildings
Question: Hazards of & Best Response to a Sewage Spill in a Crawl Space
I am writing in the hope of getting some information on a sewage spill that happened at the place we are renting. We are in a studio unit that is below the original plumbing of the main building. There is a pump-up system to get rid of the sewage. It overflowed a couple of weeks ago because somebody previous to us had flushed tampons down the system and they had jammed the pump.
The effluent overflowed out of the top of the containment barrel and ran about 15'down the slope in the crawl space. At that time the landlord removed a good bit of the contaminated soil and then put kitty litter over it to absorb the moisture. Yesterday the tank overflowed again. This time, the plumber found a towel that had been flushed down the toilet, also by previous tenants. Our landlords had said they noticed the towel missing in mid August. It is now mid Nov. The plumber thought that it had just been floating in the collection barrel and was only a matter of time before it got sucked up by the pump.
This all happened in the crawl space below the unit we are renting. We are in Whistler BC and the house is built on the side of the mountain, so the crawl space is not the traditional type one visualizes when we think of a crawl space. Where the collection barrel is located, the space is just deep enough for the height of the barrel. By the entrance door of the crawl space, the ceiling to floor is well over 12'. Most of the are is mountain bedrock which is very jagged and sloping. As such, it is quite difficult to clean the area. This last spill has re-soaked the kitty litter from the previous spill.
My question to you is, are there health hazards due to the spill. My wife and I have somewhat compromised immune systems, so we have concerns about the consequences. The landlord had also stated that there was a continual problem with wet, damp soil in the crawl space. Would this lead to a mold problem. What would you suggest to clean up the spill, if anything. Would putting kitty litter or some other absorbing material be a good enough solution? Are there other steps that one could take to rectify the problem? Can the bacteria be transferred by walking in the affected area and then tracked into our living space? Or is it of no concern? I thank you for your time and I look forward to your response in the near future.- R.P. 10/14/2012
Reply: Advice for Disinfecting & Drying Out a Sewage Contaminated Crawl Space
We can't reliably assess the extent of health hazards in your home due to a crawl space sewage backup from just your note, as there are other very important considerations that an onsite expert would consider, such as the ease with which air or dust can move from a contaminated crawl area into the occupied building space. But here are some thoughts that may help:
An appropriate response to sewage spills in a crawl space goes beyond dumping some kitty litter on the ground. Missing from your description of how the sewage spill was handled in the crawl space you describe are these additional steps or considerations:
Questions & answers or comments about testing for sewage contamination in buildings
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