How to Deal With Raw Sewage in Your Basement

A raw sewage spill means more than the expense and inconvenience of conventional water damage. It’s an emergency that imposes serious health and safety threats. Any sort of blockage or backup occurring in the main sewer line always affects the lowest point in the house first, so the basement is often ground zero for raw sewage influx. Because an enclosed basement below ground level indefinitely retains any flooding deposited there, professional expertise and specialized equipment are literally always required to pump it out and restore a safe, non-contaminated environment.

What’s Different About Sewage?

There’s good reason why professional sewage remediation teams look like the clean-up crew at a nuclear accident, enclosed head-to-toe in a hazmat suit with eye protection, a face mask and often breathing from a respirator. Raw sewage commonly contains pathogens including Hepatitis B virus, E. coli bacteria, as well as parasites like Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia—better known as the two most common causes of water-borne illness. Even the Poliomyelitis virus that causes polio is a frequently identified component. Direct contact with raw sewage isn’t necessary to become contaminated, just breathing the fumes may result in infection.

Don’t Even Try to Do It Yourself

Putting on rubber boots and gloves and adopting a can-do attitude aren’t enough. That’s why any responsible sewage clean-up advice must be brief and blunt: Don’t do it yourself. Let qualified professionals handle it.

In addition, these precautions apply:

  • Stay out of the basement.
  • Keep kids and pets away, too.
  • Avoid breathing sewage fumes.
  • Infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with compromised immune systems should immediately evacuate the house until it is declared safe to return by a qualified professional.

Can Items Be Saved?

The general rule is, all items directly contacted by raw sewage should be discarded using methods that comply with local and state regulations for toxic waste disposal. Attempting to disinfect sewage-saturated materials such as carpeting, furniture, drywall, insulation, bedding, and clothing is typically more labor-intensive and expensive than replacement. Valuables deemed to be irreplaceable will require professional decontamination procedures before being safe to handle.

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