Immediate evacuation of the affected area after a sewer spill is critical. Sewer water contains a wide range of disease causing agents, including fungi, viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Even the slightest contact can cause gastrointestinal distress, bacterial infections, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, tetanus, or other serious illnesses. Assume all surfaces in contact with sewer water are contaminated. Some pathogens are airborne, so just breathing the air in the vicinity of a spill can be dangerous. Sewage may also emit methane, hydrogen, sulfide, or other asphyxiating, flammable, or toxic gases.
The first thing the professionals need to do is stop the flow of water to keep the contamination from spreading. The cause of the backup could be something as simple as a single toilet overflowing or a severely clogged drain. A more serious problem would be a septic system failure.
Professionals trained to deal with this type of cleanup have formal training in how to sanitize the affected area. They must utilize the proper safety equipment for their own personal safety. This protective equipment includes clothing made of nonporous material, rubber boots, rubber gloves, eye protection, and a HEPA respirator. Any direct contact with sewer water or anything saturated with sewer water can lead to infection, respiratory ailments, or other health problems.
After dealing with the source of the spill, the professional cleaning technicians will start removing all contaminated contents from the affected area. This includes furniture covered with upholstery, drapes, carpeting, wet books, and other items saturated by contaminated water. It is impossible to clean saturated mattresses, so these must be discarded. The technicians must seal any contaminated materials in plastic bags and discard these items in a proper manner to prevent the spread of dangerous microorganisms. In some cases, area rugs are salvageable with the proper treatment but this process should take place off-site. Wall-to-wall carpeting and the padding underneath it should be replaced with new materials. After removing the carpet, the technicians should clean, disinfect, dry and seal the subflooring before new carpet and pad installation.
The cleaning experts will move any contents spared contact with the contaminated water to a clean space outside the affected area. Ideally, any contaminated items that are salvageable should be moved outdoors. If that is impractical due to weather or space issues, the property owner may store them temporarily in a garage or some other area with a tile or concrete floor. These items may include furniture with hard surfaces, items made of plastic, and dishes. Clothing, blankets, towels, sheets, and bedding are often salvageable by laundering or dry cleaning.