“It’s just water,” you think. What could go wrong if you just decided to dip a toe into the flood water and work your way to the other side? The water doesn’t look too deep or radioactive from afar.
That standing water looks passive enough, but flood waters pose various risks and may threaten you with injury, chemical hazards and infectious diseases. Don’t try to downplay the risks. Even if the current won’t carry you away, you still need to worry about the possibility of sewage in your flood water.
Sewage Can Leak Into Water During a Flood
According to the Scientific American, sewage floods are more likely to happen in the coming years as heavy rains increase. Between 1895 and 2011, rainfall has increased by two inches each year, and it’s only going to continue rising. In 2016, Baton Rouge, Louisiana faced a deluge of 20 inches of rain within 72 hours, necessitating 30,000 rescues.
Many families end up waiting until the flood hits their front door to evacuate, and then they have to do it by boat. What do they end up seeing and treading through? Raw sewage.
That’s what happened to folks in Baton Rouge. The city’s piping, booster systems and life stations were built around a century ago, and the system couldn’t handle the torrential downpour leading to what is known as a “sanitary sewer overflow” — or unsanitary, rather. Do you know how old the pipes are in your neighborhood? It’s worth looking into.
Cities are responsible for adhering to the Clean Water Act. Older systems are designed with fixed degrees of water and rainfall in mind, but more flexible systems need developing.
Outfall points release the sewage into larger bodies of water, but sometimes, shallow slopes don’t allow for proper flushing. In New York City alone, three billion gallons are released into just one stream — the Newton Creek. Find out about how your city treats and tests its water by visiting your government website and asking direct questions.
How Can You Get Ill From Sewage in Flood Water?
Fortunately, most modern people are good about washing their hands after using the restroom and cautious of spreading possibly infectious viruses and diseases. However, sewage in the flood water can spread fecal-oral diseases from the organisms that are released into the water.
These diseases spread from touching dirty hands to your mouth. Spreading can occur by direct contact with the flood water, sewage or someone who becomes sick with disease. You can also become sick by indirect contact with the flood water when you touch damaged furniture, toys or other items or consume food exposed to sewage-contaminated water.
If infected, you may experience nausea, cramps, fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. You should contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms for more than 48 hours.
That’s why it’s important to avoid contact with flood water as a rule of thumb in general. Find a sanitary facility to shower or bathe if you do come into indirect or direct contact with flood water. The incubation period for many fecal-oral diseases consists of one to three days.
Safety Practices Regarding Sewer Contaminated Flood Water
Reduce your risk of contamination and illness by avoiding flood water altogether. If you come in contact with a flooded area, wash yourself with clean soap and water as soon as possible.
Always wash your hands after you use the toilet or eat. Keep your hands under the clean water for at least twenty seconds as you scrub.
For decontamination of objects, in many cases, you can use about eight tablespoons of laundry bleach per gallon of water to preserve some toys and other household objects. Always discard cloth objects, such as clothes, plush toys or pillows.
Use gloves, masks and proper clothing to avoid contact with the water as you clean and throw away the trash. Open up the windows for ventilation.
These tips will help you get through light flooding, but even when the water doesn’t look too deep, you never know what sewage might linger in your flood water — chances are, it’s there.
Don’t risk your health. Contact ECOS Environmental to help clean up, sanitize and restore the area, documenting every step of the process for insurance purposes for you.