How Sewer Water Can Affect My Health

How Sewer Water Can Affect My Health

Sewer backup that backed up into the shower pan.

For most homeowners, the only time they give real consideration to sewer water is with the associated utility bill that comes at the beginning or the end of the month. After that, they do not spend a great deal of time thinking about sewer water at all – though they really should. Contaminated sewer water can represent a very real health concern that people should be aware of. The key to understanding how sewer water affects your health involves knowing a little bit more about the topic as a whole.

Simply put, sewer water is water that contains human waste. It is traditionally transported through a series of pipes both inside and around homes, businesses and other types of public places. When an individual uses the bathroom in their home, for example, all of the associated waste product is flushed into a nearby septic tank. The contents of the tank are then transported via a series of sewage lines through the nearby sewage treatment plan. In the absolute best case scenario, this process will happen quickly and efficiently and without any problems whatsoever.

Unfortunately, these types of large systems do not always operate with 100% efficiency. If a sewer line breaks at some point during the journey between a home and a sewage treatment plant, that contaminated water could get into recreational or drinking water sources that are nearby. When sewage treatment plants do not properly dispose of contaminated water, it could also find itself in nearby beaches and other sources of recreation. However, the most common way to come in contact with sewage is via your own sewer line backing up into your home.

Sewer Water Can Make You Very Sick

Sewage itself contains many of the same organisms that commonly live inside the human body including parasites, bacteria, e-coli and more. Humans can potentially come into contact with sewage in a variety of different ways, which would ultimately reintroduce these types of organisms back into their bodies under less than ideal circumstances. If exposed to sewer water, humans and animals can become devastatingly sick in a relatively short amount of time.

There are three main conditions that a person would have to worry about if they found themselves exposed to sewer water or raw sewage in general. The first is gastro-enteritis, which can induce vomiting, diarrhea and more. The second is hepatitis, which can cause a discoloration of a person’s skin due to a failure in a person’s liver. If a person has any cuts or rashes, those types of conditions could also be made worse due to an exposure to sewer water. Cuts and rashes would become infected and would likely discharge pus at various times. All three of these conditions can also cause a fever...

Act Immediately

If you believe that you have been exposed to sewer water in any way, either in liquid form via a burst or backed up pipe or in gas form, it is important to consult the help of a medical professional immediately. If left untreated, many of the negative effects of a sewer water exposure can quickly prove to be disastrous. Exposure to the types of bacteria and parasites that are normally contained in sewer water can result in conditions like reactive arthritis, potential cancer and in some situations, fatality.

In the event that a situation occurs at home like a sewer pipe backs up into your basement, it is always important to wear protective clothing (including goggles and masks) before you attempt to clean it up. Even if the water appears “clean”, it still contains the same bacteria and pathogens that are found in “black water”. The best thing to do is to call your 24/7 water damage restoration professionals right away!


Be Prepared with Sewer & Drain Coverage

It is always important to understand the simple fact that no two insurance policies are created equally. One type of policy may provide more than enough funds to recover from a particular type of disaster, while another policy might provide no funds at all. Your insurance policy should also be tailored to your specific situation. Don’t be fooled by “optional” coverage that you can add to your policy at an additional expense. Some of these concerns are very real and you always want to make sure that your policy will cover you in the event that you really need it. Sewer backup and drain backflow coverage are two of these provisions that are exceedingly important...

Sewage Backup

As its name suggests, sewer backup coverage is designed to protect homeowners in the event of a city sewer line failing. If a sewer line fails, it may cause sewage to back up into your home. If you think that the city will cover the cost of damages because the backed up sewer line is their responsibility – think again. The city will be the first one to knock on your door and hand you a release letter, telling you that they are not responsible for this incident.

Sewage BackupSewer backup coverage comes with caps ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or more depending on the insurance company in question. As a general rule, we always recommend $10,000 in coverage. It’s better to have the funds available to recover from disaster and not need them than it is to need the funds and not have them. Sewer water can cause an incredibly amount of damage in a very short period of time. More than that, the city is very difficult to go after from a legal perspective for property damage. Instead of going after the city yourself, the insurance company will instead take the city to task for reimbursement of whatever they end up paying you.

Drain Backflow

Drain backflow coverage, by comparison, is designed to cover you in the event that your own sewer line breaks or has blockage issues that cause the line to back up and destroy property in your home. As with sewer backup coverage, drain backflow coverage comes with caps of $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. Some policies do not actually have a cap at all, which means that you will always be covered – even in the event of a catastrophic total loss. For more information about the caps that are available with your insurance company, ask your insurance agent for details.

In these types of situations, we always recommend pursuing an insurance policy with no cap at all. Drain backflow issues can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage in almost no time at all. What’s worse is that these issues essentially have no warning signs and can happen very unexpectedly.Be Prepared with Sewer & Drain Coverage

A backed up sewer drain leaking raw sewage into your home for even a small period of time like an hour can cause an unbelievable amount of damage – we have seen it happen. If you only have $10,000 in coverage and experience $25,000 worth of damage, you will be personally responsible for whatever the insurance company does not provide for. In these situations, it is always best to pursue the maximum amount of coverage available to help prevent these types of unexpected expenses.

For more information about sewage contamination and how it is handled by a professional restoration company, see our “Sewage Cleanup” page for more details.