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SAFETY for SEPTIC INSPECTORS
SEPTIC BACKUP REPAIR
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
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SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in BUILDINGS
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Sewage backup or spill cleanup in crawl spaces: this article describes sewage backup or spill procedures for building crawl spaces or other hard-to-enter building areas. We describe special safety procedures for crawl space entry, debris removal, sewage removal, and sewage-contaminated soil removal. We also describe steps to prevent future sewage contamination in the crawl area.
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Reader question: I am writing in the hope of getting some information on a sewage spill that happened at the place we are renting. We are in a studio unit that is below the original plumbing of the main building.
There is a pump-up system to get rid of the sewage. It overflowed a couple of weeks ago because somebody previous to us had flushed tampons down the system and they had jammed the pump.
The effluent overflowed out of the top of the containment barrel and ran about 15'down the slope in the crawl space.
At that time the landlord removed a good bit of the contaminated soil and then put kitty litter over it to absorb the moisture.
Yesterday the tank overflowed again. This time, the plumber found a towel that had been flushed down the toilet, also by previous tenants.
Our landlords had said they noticed the towel missing in mid August. It is now mid Nov. The plumber thought that it had just been floating in the collection barrel and was only a matter of time before it got sucked up by the pump.
This all happened in the crawl space below the unit we are renting. We are in Whistler BC and the house is built on the side of the mountain, so the crawl space is not the traditional type one visualizes when we think of a crawl space.
Where the collection barrel is located, the space is just deep enough for the height of the barrel. By the entrance door of the crawl space, the ceiling to floor is well over 12'. Most of the are is mountain bedrock which is very jagged and sloping. As such, it is quite difficult to clean the area. This last spill has re-soaked the kitty litter from the previous spill.
My question to you is, are there health hazards due to the spill. My wife and I have somewhat compromised immune systems, so we have concerns about the consequences. The landlord had also stated that there was a continual problem with wet, damp soil in the crawl space.
Would this lead to a mold problem. What would you suggest to clean up the spill, if anything. Would putting kitty litter or some other absorbing material be a good enough solution? Are there other steps that one could take to rectify the problem? Can the bacteria be transferred by walking in the affected area and then tracked into our living space? Or is it of no concern? I thank you for your time and I look forward to your response in the near future.- R.P. 10/14/2012
Advice for Disinfecting & Drying Out a Sewage Contaminated Crawl Space
Reply: We can't reliably assess the extent of health hazards in your home due to a crawl space sewage backup from just your note, as there are other very important considerations that an onsite expert would consider, such as the ease with which air or dust can move from a contaminated crawl area into the occupied building space. But here are some thoughts that may help:
An appropriate response to sewage spills in a crawl space goes beyond dumping some kitty litter on the ground. Missing from your description of how the sewage spill was handled in the crawl space you describe are these additional steps or considerations:
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