Sewer line breaks result in messes, which require cleanup. While many homeowners may roll up their sleeves to do the work themselves – you may consider hiring a professional cleaning agency that has the appropriate tools and necessary experience. The decision is one of personal choice that involves time, money and the extent to which a homeowner is willing to risk exposure to the health hazards.
While homeowner’s policies don’t cover repairs to a broken or leaking sewer pipe, some might cover the cleanup, so read your policy or call your insurance representative to determine coverage. If your homeowner’s policy provides coverage, it’s highly recommended that a professional restoration service be used. After assessing the extent of the damage, make a list of what you can do yourself and what you may want a professional to handle. This should include a minimum of replacing floor coverings and wallboards, checking the home’s foundation for cracks or splits and pitching any ruined materials or sending them out for professional cleaning. Sewage may have possibly contaminated your heating and air conditioning unit and duct work, so have it professionally serviced.
If you plan to do it yourself, experts suggest investing in professional cleaning gear to protect yourself from germs. This includes protective eyewear, gloves, boots, pants and long-sleeved shirts. Be sure to wear goggles and, if possible, a face mask when hosing off items to protect from back splashing. Remember to never touch contaminated materials with your bare hands and always wash your hands thoroughly after cleanup.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health suggests these tips when cleaning up sewage:
- Dry the space out, removing all water with a sump pump, wet vac or bucket. Many of these items and more can be rented locally.
- Control the temperature to improve the evaporation rate and ventilation.
- Collect and discard properly of all solid waste. Contact your local Health Department for instructions on discarding.
- Discard carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture. Wallboards or paneling with water stains should be cut above the water line and replaced. Generally, all porous materials contaminated by sewage should be discarded – such as cardboard boxes, paper items, books, magazines, mattresses, pillows, stuffed animals and anything else difficult to clean. Clothing may be salvageable if laundered professionally.
- Wash all contaminated areas with a detergent solution and then apply a disinfectant (anti-bacterial) or a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Disinfectants and/or bleach should be in contact with the items for 15 minutes or more to be effective and then allowed to air dry.
Whenever sewer backups happen, because of the health risks, it’s best to contact a professional restoration company for cleanup to ensure your home returns to its original state.
Many people are familiar with water conservation efforts for the home. Did you know there are effective ways to conserve water in your yard and garden as well?
- Planting a new lawn, tree or shrubs this summer? Consider drought-resistant plants, which require far less watering. The following sites offer great suggestions:
Garden Guides, HouseLogic, Houzz, and Lifehacker.
- Group plants together according to their watering needs and the slope descent of your yard, which will help retain water and reduce runoff.
- Collect rain water in barrels to water your plants.
- Don’t forget the mulch! Mulch slows evaporation and helps retain moisture while preventing weed growth.
- Position sprinklers so the water lands in the lawn or garden – not on the sidewalk or road.
- Only water when necessary. Step on the grass – if it springs up, you don’t need to water, but if it stays flat, the grass is thirsty.
- Letting grass grow to three inches or taller promotes water retention in the soil.
- Know how much water you need. Most lawns require a deep soak. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn when watering; when water reaches the top of the can, the lawn has been adequately watered.
- Water early in the morning or later in the day to prevent fungus and to keep insects like slugs and other garden pests at bay.
- Use a bucket of soapy water to wash your car and only rinse with the hose. This can save up to 150 gallons of water!
- Don’t forget to check your outdoor hoses, pipes and faucets for leaks – just like inside.
For more information on water conservation, check out Eartheasy Sustainable Living, WaterSense and the Water Project.
Water and energy conservation are hot topics. As water rates continue to rise, putting a strain on budgets, conserving such a precious resource should be a priority for every family.
Homeowners waste thousands of gallons of water a day, without even realizing it!
- Small drips from a faucet can waste approximately 20 gallons of water per day.
- Toilets are not trash receptacles; every flush uses seven to ten gallons of water.
What can you do to help fix the problem?
- Check for leaks in problem fixtures, such as toilets and faucets.
- Use your meter to check for hidden water leaks.
- Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators.
- Take shorter showers. Long, hot showers can use five to ten gallons of water per minute. A four-minute shower, for example, can use between 20 and 40 gallons of water.
- Insulate water pipes to get hot water faster, which wastes less water while it’s heating up.
- Don’t leave the water running as you shave, brush your teeth, wash dishes or rinse vegetables.
- Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes.
For more information on water conservation, check out Earth Easy Sustainable Living, WaterSense and the Water Project.
Many cities use treated water from lakes and streams to provide fresh drinking water to their communities. However, many communities could be unintentionally contaminating their drinking water each time it rains.
Stormwater drains (not sewer systems) help return rainwater to nearby lakes, streams and treatment systems; however, there is risk of pollutants, trash and sediment being carried underground. While these drains keep the public safe from rainwater flooding and potential hydroplaning, keep in mind that stormwater runs into other bodies of water.
Storm drains are for rain – not dumping household products that you wouldn’t otherwise pour down a drain in your home. As a homeowner, you can help prevent dangerous pollutants from entering storm drains.
- Clean up pet waste. Pet waste left on the ground could wash into the storm drains.
- Never apply pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides to foliage and plants before it rains. Rain doesn’t help soil absorb chemicals; it washes them away. Also, consider using non-toxic or organic alternatives.
- If possible, drain pools (even kiddy pools) into the sanitary sewer system where the water can be treated.
- Dispose of chemicals properly instead of dumping them on the ground or in a storm drain.
- Chemical spill? Don’t rinse it with the hose. Use absorbent materials like kitty litter, which can be swept and disposed of properly.
- Take your car to the car wash so soap doesn’t leak into the storm drains. Many car washes recycle their water, so you’ll be conserving water, too. If you must wash your car at home, consider using biodegradable soap.
For more information about storm water pollution, visit the EPA website.