Dangers Of Raw Sewage Under House

Dangers Of Raw Sewage Under House

Dangers Of Raw Sewage Under House

dangers of raw sewage under house

Where does our home wastewater go? There are several dangers of raw sewage under house (1) and millions of Americans get sick every year after after touching water they thought it was safe (2)

First of all, people performing sewage cleanup should always be qualified, trained on how to do it (3) and properly protected with PPE.

If you need advice from a safety specialist, contact a Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) or an Industrial Hygienist (IH) (4). They can inspect and test for bacterial to determine if there are any potential health risks.

Sewage releases toxic fumes that can aggravate respiratory problems. Constant exposure to raw sewage odors can cause headaches and nausea

Pathogens and parasites in contaminated crawl spaces migrate up into the home. Crawl space mold releases airborne spores that cause a variety of health issues.

  • Sewer outlet pipes in older homes eventually corrode, crack and leak.
  • Sewer drain pipes freeze and burst in unheated, under-insulated crawl spaces.
  • Your city’s infrastructurelike the one in Chicago, is aging and causing sewage backups that rupture pipes.
  • Tree roots invade a sewer pipe and create blockages that overload the system.

Drain pipes from the kitchen and bathrooms are also sources of contaminated water in crawl spaces. When the lines leak or break, they release gray water that breeds bacteria and becomes as hazardous as Category 3 black water.

When it comes to avoid the dangers of raw sewage under house, the wood subfloor must be removed and all remaining surfaces cleaned, sanitized and dried. After drying, clean again. Clean work pathways and touch point surfaces. The company performing the cleanup should be familiar with IICRC S500 standards for water restoration. Contact an IICRC Certified Firm with trained Technicians.

There are industry standards for Water Damage and Sewage Cleanup. For example: IICRC S500.
This standard discusses the removal of Category 3 Water (Sewer Contaminated Water). Remove and dispose of all soft items that came in contact with the water, cut sheetrock and insulation out, clean and sanitize all surfaces that came in contact with the water, dry materials after sanitizing. Then re-clean again with HEPA vacuum and then sanitize again.

Sewage damage, what we call Category 3 – black water, can be hazardous. There are potential pathogens in the liquid and the surfaces that have come in contact with the liquid are considered contaminated. Contractors performing this type of service should follow the IICRC S520 Standard for water/sewage mitigation. Anyone handling the cleanup must take caution, at a minimum, wear gloves, mask, and goggles. Dispose of waste in bags. Be careful to not walk in the liquids which can cross-contaminate areas.

Raw sewage leaving a residence typically consists of everything that that is conveyed down any drain by water, toilet water included. This includes human excrement, hygiene and beauty products, soaps, detergents, cleaning products, food waste and anything that gets cleaned up from a spill. These materials mix and react in sewage, along with the natural reactions of microorganisms that inhabit the sewage. Residential sewage leaks can be hazardous.

Step By Step Solution

You’re dealing here with liquids that are classified as Category 3 black water.

Suit up in the following personal protection gear before starting the 7-step sewage cleanup process:

  • Heavy rubber work boots
  • Long-sleeve shirt and coveralls
  • Heavy, long-cuff work gloves
  • OSHA-approved respirator face mask
  • Wrap-around eye protection goggles


Secure the crawl space opening so that children and pets can’t get inside. If possible, minimize toxic fume leaks by attaching plastic sheets to overhead joists. Locate and repair the damaged pipes that released sewage under the house.


Use a submersible pump to extract standing water and sewage from the crawl space floor. Smaller spills can often be taken care of with a shop vac. Be careful working with electrical equipment in wet areas.


Shovel remaining sewage and contaminated soil into plastic bags. Ordinary trash bags will tear, so be sure to use heavy-duty plastic bags. Tightly seal the bags, and take them to a licensed solid waste disposal facility.


Remove any plastic sheets previously installed to control odor. Set up air-moving and dehumidifying equipment designed for safe operation in wet environments. The drying process can take from several days up to a week or more.


If you’ve stored things in the crawl space, assume they’ve been contaminated by the sewage leak. You can disinfect some non-porous items with bleach and water, but porous items must be bagged, sealed and safely thrown away.


Spread lime in the crawl space, and work it into the soil. This helps break down remaining organic matter and reduces moisture in the crawl space. Lime powder also discourages rodents and insects under the house.


Take a close look at wood joists and piers for any signs of mold and rot. Remove mold in the crawl space, and upgrade ventilation throughout the area. Tear out and reconstruct damaged building materials.

Safety Measures To Take


Before you enter the crawl space, check your personal protection equipment every time. If you notice tears in coveralls or gloves or any damage to your respirator or goggles, replace the gear right away.


Working in the tight space requires laying down or crouching. Put down barriers between you and the crawl space sewage. Spread heavy plastic sheeting or tarps over the ground as you clean and disinfect the area.


The odor of raw sewage should bring you out for fresh air, but don’t take chances. Plan on leaving the crawl space for at least five minutes every half hour. Otherwise, exposure to organic pollutants in the air can cause headaches, burning eyes, nausea and respiratory distress.


Whether it’s a minor scrape or small cut, treat any wound immediately. Stop working, leave the crawl space, and disinfect the injury. Cover with a waterproof bandage before going back into the contaminated area.


If you have second thoughts about the project, contact restoration professionals. Industry-certified technicians use specialized equipment and techniques to clean, disinfect and restore sewage-flooded crawl spaces. Their services also restore your peace of mind.

Actions To Avoid

  • Allow the sewage to sit. The moisture creates a well-fed breeding ground for dangerous mold growth, on top of the bacteria and parasites in the sewage. As it dries uncontrolled, the contaminants become airborne. Sewage releases toxic fumes that can aggravate respiratory problems. Constant exposure to raw sewage odors can cause headaches and nausea.
  • Handle any of the sewage material, or anything it came in contact with, without proper protective gear. Regular soaps and detergents are no match for the contaminants present in wastewater.
  • Run any air/heating/cooling systems. Airborne pathogens that were limited to the spill area will be spread throughout the building, and contaminate the HVAC system in the process.
  • Move contaminated contents into uncontaminated areas. Even if dry, until they are decontaminated, pathogens can spread onto surfaces they come in contact with. Move them outside to a contained staging area.
  • Try to clean structures, contents or furnishings with conventional cleaning products – even professional grade. Special detergents and disinfectants are needed to safely remove bacteria, fungus and other pathogens.

Lets study all these dangers of raw sewage under house

Sewage Water Contains Diseases and Bacteria

To begin, we explain exactly what sewage is. Primarily, sewage is contaminated water containing waste of any type. Sewage can be a mixture of waste from both household and industrial sources. The waste can contain anything as harmless as soap to more harmful things such as human or industrial waste. Sharing the same space as sewage, for any duration of time, often means coming in contact with many harmful bacteria and diseases.

One of the more dangerous bacteria you can come in contact with in sewage backup is E. coli, also known as Escherichia coli. Normally found within the digressive tracts of humans and harmless when in that system, E. coli is extremely harmful outside of the intestines. According to the CDC, E. coli is one of the most common contaminants found in sewage. Coming into contact with E. coli can lead to cramping, vomiting, severe diarrhea, and dehydration.

By being in contact with sewage you could also be exposed to the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A is an infection that is not only highly contagious but also directly affects your liver. The typical symptoms of hepatitis A are jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, and an inflamed liver.

Sewage contamination should be considered extremely dangerous. It has the ability to make not only whomever comes into direct contact with it very sick, but also anyone else with whom the exposed comes into contact, as there are many highly contagious bacteria and viruses commonly found in sewage.


Pathogenic organisms – or pathogens – are microorganisms that can cause illness in humans. While the bacteria that inhabit the human gut are non-pathogenic in the gut, they can be pathogenic if they are ingested again once they have left the body. Sewage leaks release these organisms, where casual contact can cause the pathogens to come into contact with food. Moreover, raw sewage is an ideal medium for many pathogenic organisms that grow outside the body. Botulism – a powerful toxin – is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can be produced in raw sewage where there is little oxygen. E-coli, salmonella, campylobacter, intestinal amoebas, shigella and even cholera are included in the list of pathogens that can be carried in raw sewage.

The diseases and bacteria found in sewage may seem avoidable, but this is often not the case. A common misconception regarding sewage is that you can only get sick from directly consuming the substance. However, many of the diseases and bacteria found in sewage backup can be transmitted in many ways outside of direct consumption.

One of the most common ways for bacteria from sewage backup to enter your body is through hand-to-mouth contact. Coming in contact with bacteria can be as easy as not properly cleaning your hands after touching sewage and then eating or drinking. Many may think of cleaning their hands before eating or drinking, but smoking a cigarette or cigar when your hands are not properly cleaned is also an extremely easy way to be infected by bacteria and diseases.

The second most common way to be infected by bacteria is through skin contact. This could be forgetting about a cut on your leg and exposing that cut to sewage. A disease present in sewage may even spread quicker when given an easy entry to your body such as an unhealed cut. No matter how careful you may be when cleaning, you run the risk of infection when cleaning sewage yourself.

Bacteria In The Septic System

When it comes to sewage water, what we call Category 3 water, it is contaminated with bacteria and many other things.

The primary concern is bacteria. Bacteria can stay active when wet and left untreated and even when they dry out they can leave spores of fragmented particles that can cause illness.

Bacteria are important to break down sewage as part of the cycle of treatment that will make the water safe for reintroduction into aquifers and waterways. That is the purpose of most underground septic tanks – to allow bacteria to work on the sewage before it is sent forward to a drainfield, or leechfield, where it can percolate through the subsoil’s natural filters and back into the water table. Some people think bacteria needs to be added to sewage from the house to ensure the septic tank works properly, and they add yeast or other bacteria-producing materials to flushed water. This is unnecessary, and it could cause pathogens to occur in sewage before it leaves the house, which would be released in the event of a leak.

Sewage Causes Air-Borne Contamination

Not only is coming into physical contact with raw sewage a threat, but sewage can also contaminate the air around you. Sewage backup lets off air-borne contaminants along with the physical contaminants. Inhaling the vapors emitted by raw sewage can lead to gastroenteritis, which is commonly associated with fever, vomiting, cramping, and potentially death if left untreated.

The most immediate danger from a residential sewage leak is gas. Sewage can generate a variety of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, chlorine, nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. Any of these gases can cause people and animals in the house to suffer from a lack of oxygen, which can cause disorientation. The most common gas hazards from sewage leaks are hydrogen sulfide and methane. Hydrogen sulfide is toxic, and can cause sickness, disorientation and even death in high doses. Methane can asphyxiate occupants of the house, acting quickly even in small amounts to produce unconsciousness and death.

A more common health concern associated with air-borne contamination caused by sewage is asthma. As sewage can release toxins or even infected dust, the risk for breathing in the toxins is very high. Once inhaled, the toxins can attack your upper respiratory system, causing asthma-like symptoms and shortness of breath. These fumes are often released into the air during the cleaning process, which is why it is especially important to hire a specialist and professional.

Chemicals Utilized In The Septic System

One way to disrupt the septic system’s production of beneficial bacteria is to flush chemicals down the drains and toilets. Cleaning products, paints and thinners, and pesticides can kill beneficial bacteria. The other problem with these products is that they can actually cause leaks, and the leaks can then expose your family to these chemicals. Many of these chemicals are corrosive. They damage pipes, break down pipe joints and promote oxidation. If this damage results in a leak, then these same chemicals are released into the house.

A sewage loss can be an exceptionally dangerous situation. Due to the sensitive nature of cleaning up a sewage loss, it is a much safer choice to leave the cleanup and restoration to the professionals.

Sewage Backup Prevention To Avoid Dangers Of Raw Sewage Under House

Sewage backup prevention is far preferable to the alternative: clean-up after a backup happens. Sewage refluxing into your house is actually a biohazard and usually requires professional water damage remediation to make the home environment healthy again.

When you finally get the mess cleaned up, you may still notice a strong sewer gas smell in the crawl space. Time and improved ventilation help, but you can try different crawl space odor neutralizers.

While a clogged sewage line often seems to be a sudden event coming out of the blue, it’s more often the culmination of a process that’s been ongoing for some time. Here are some sewage backup prevention tips to interrupt that process before disaster strikes:

  • Stay sewer-conscious. Don’t wash cooking grease down the kitchen drain. It flows freely out of the sink but solidifies inside your sewer pipe as sludge that gradually reduces the flow of wastewater. Also, throw coffee grounds away instead of down the drain, too. Remember that any paper other than toilet tissue flushed down the toilet will not degrade inside the sewer and will promote clogs.
  • Get an inspection. Have a plumbing professional visually inspect the inside of your sewer pipe with micro-video technology. It’s the only way to know for sure if pipe segments are collapsing due to age, or if tree roots are obstructing flow.
  • Plant carefully. Tree roots are always seeking a sewer pipe for nutrients. Keep new trees and shrubbery plantings away from the underground route of your sewer pipe across the yard. Inquire at a local nursery about specific species that have less aggressive root patterns and are considered “sewer friendly.”
  • Install a sump pump. If a sewer backup occurs, the first place it will inundate with toxic sewage is the lowest point in your home: the basement. A sump pump safeguards against basement flooding from all sources even when nobody’s around to see it happen.
  • Reduce odors by spreading activated charcoal in the crawl space.
  • Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda through the entire area.
  • You can spread lime powder, but please read some of my objections regarding the utilization of lime in the crawlspace in this article.


Effective sewage backup prevention definitely beats the alternative: noxious sewage flowing backwards into your house. A sewage backup complicates normal water damage recovery because raw sewage—officially categorized as “black water”— is a toxic biohazard that requires professional clean-up and specialized decontamination procedures.

Household sewage may reflux back into the home due to obstructions in your underground sewer pipe leading to the main municipal line at the street. Alternatively, sewage may also flow into your home if the municipal sewer backs up, such as when heavy rain swamps the local system. Here some sewage backup prevention strategies to avoid these messy, unhealthy scenarios.

Household Sewer Issues

Have your sewer line inspected. Tree root infiltration is a major cause of blockages in original clay or cast iron sewer pipes with seams between segments. The only way to know for sure whether your line is affected is professional inspection of the internal pipe with a video camera. If tree roots are discovered, a high-speed cutter run through the length of the pipe every few years can maintain proper flow.

Collapsing segments are another fact of aging sewer pipes. As the pipe gradually deteriorates and deforms underground, sewage flow is increasingly obstructed until backup into the house occurs. As with tree roots, only video inspection can determine internal condition of the sewer pipe and locate potential blockages.

Municipal Sewer Issues

Heavy influx of water into the city sewer may exceed system capacity and cause sewage to flow backwards into your house. Installation of a sewage backflow device in your sewer line prevents backwards flow of sewage. The most typical type is a sewer check valve that incorporates a flap that permits only one-way flow of sewage in your main pipe. If sewage flows backwards, the flap closes and prevents flow into the house.

Causes Of Raw Sewage

he age of residential sewer pipes now averages over 30 years, a major factor in the increasing incidence of sewage flowing back into houses instead of away.

Common causes of household sewage backups include:

Obstructed sewer line.

Often due to tree root intrusion over years. However, washing grease down the sink or flushing non-degradable materials down the toilet also contributes to blockages.

Sewer line deterioration.

Aging sewer lines often collapse, stopping free flow of sewage.

Heavy rain.

A severe rainstorm may temporarily overwhelm the municipal sewer system, causing sewage to backflow into houses connected to the system.

Overflowing toilets

A clogged toilet can easily overflow if you don’t remove the clog quickly and effectively. After a few failed plunging attempts, call an emergency plumber for help.

Overflowing septic tanks

Septic tank waste is a mixture of wastewater, organic waste, solid waste, and human excrement. Exposure to any of these things can cause health risks.

Backed-up sinks and tubs

When a clogged sink or bathtub overflows, the sewer water it brings with it can be harmful to your health.

Backed-up floor drains

During heavy rainfall, the sewer system can become overwhelmed and begin to back up into people’s homes. The lowest drain in a house, such as a basement floor drain, is most likely to have a problem.


What’s Involved In Recovery?

Professional remediation techniques after a sewage backup are more complicated than methods utilized for clean water from a ruptured plumbing supply line.

  • Extraction of raw sewage from a house is a job for qualified, experienced technicians equipped with full safety gear for protection from contaminated water and vapors.
  • In addition to removing sewage, all areas contacted by it must be cleansed and decontaminated with disinfectants formulated to neutralize the biohazards.
  • Absorbent materials such as carpeting and padding, drapes, clothing and paper products contacted by sewage must be removed from the house and disposed. There is no cost-efficient way to effectively decontaminate these items.
  • Semi-porous materials like wooden furniture, cabinets, wood building materials and some sealed or painted drywall can usually be disinfected if properly treated immediately.
  • In addition to extraction and decontamination, sewage also poses the same risks of mold contamination that ensues after any type of water damage. Professional mold remediation techniques must be applied within 48 hours to prevent toxic mold growth.
  • Use a chlorine solution of one cup of household chlorine bleach with a bucketful of cold water as a disinfectant.
  • Make sure electrical hazards are dealt with before you start cleaning. Call a licensed electrician to do this for you, or else switch off the power at the house switchboard or fuse box.
  • Wear protective clothing including rubber gloves, boots and eye protection.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If you get anything on you while cleaning, wash yourself immediately.
  • Sweep out water. Discard any contaminated household materials that cannot be effectively cleaned or disinfected, which may include carpet, mattresses, upholstered furniture or children’s soft toys.
  • Discard contaminated drywall, plasterboard and insulation. Consult a building practitioner if you are don’t know how to do this or are concerned about the structural integrity.
  • Soak utensils in a chlorine solution Rinse in clean cold water.
  • To disinfect hard surfaces, use a chlorine solution and leave wet for 10 minutes. Rinse the surface afterwards with clean cold water.
  • Disinfect cleaning mops, brooms and brushers with the bleach solution.
  • Clean and disinfecting all contaminated areas with cold water and detergent, then disinfect with a chlorine solution. Pay special attention to cooking utensils and surfaces, such as walls, benchtops and floors. Throw out all food, food containers and medicines that have been affected, including canned and packaged food.
  • Clean and dry dirty footwear, and wash affected clothes in hot water and soap.  Do not mix with unaffected footwear or clothing. Make sure to wash your work clothes when you’ve finished cleaning.
  • Ensure you have adequate ventilation inside the house to help the drying process. Fans, air conditioning units and dehumidifiers can help.

home water damage from water with raw sewage

A raw sewage spill means more than the expense and inconvenience of conventional water damage. It’s an emergency that imposes serious health and safety threats. Any sort of blockage or backup occurring in the main sewer line always affects the lowest point in the house first, so the basement is often ground zero for raw sewage influx. Because an enclosed basement below ground level indefinitely retains any flooding deposited there, professional expertise and specialized equipment are literally always required to pump it out and restore a safe, non-contaminated environment.

There’s good reason why professional sewage remediation teams look like the clean-up crew at a nuclear accident, enclosed head-to-toe in a hazmat suit with eye protection, a face mask and often breathing from a respirator. Raw sewage commonly contains pathogens including Hepatitis B virus, E. coli bacteria, as well as parasites like Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia—better known as the two most common causes of water-borne illness. Even the Poliomyelitis virus that causes polio is a frequently identified component. Direct contact with raw sewage isn’t necessary to become contaminated, just breathing the fumes may result in infection.

A sewage backup combines water damage to the house along with acute health risks to its occupants. Raw sewage is classified as Category 3 water (also known, appropriately, as “Black Water”) and is uniquely hazardous due to the presence of toxic microbes including cryptosporidium, E.coli, hepatitis and giardia, plus others. All are known to cause disease in humans on contact or when inhaled.

DIY Remediation Is Not Recommended

Putting on rubber boots and gloves and adopting a can-do attitude aren’t enough. That’s why any responsible sewage clean-up advice must be brief and blunt: Don’t do it yourself. Let qualified professionals handle it.

Water damage is bad. Sewage damage is worse. Sewage may enter your house as part of generalized widespread flooding as water on the move becomes contaminated by the contents of swamped municipal sewer systems, overflowing septic tanks and other sources. Or, it may result from a blockage in your household sewer line triggering a backup into the house.

Water damage professionals appropriately call it “black water.”  Noxious sewage-related microbes may be viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic and pose a very high potential risk of disease to occupants. Once sewage is flowing into your home, risk factors escalate rapidly

  • When soaked by sewage for an extended time, absorbent materials incorporated in home construction including wood, gypsum board, insulation and even concrete may become permeated and pose a continuing source of contamination. Standard water damage remediation techniques are not sufficient to neutralize the health threat.
  • In addition to risks due to contact with sewage, airborne hazards proliferate, too. Within a short time frame, aerosol contamination accumulating within the enclosed confines of a sewage-inundated house can reach levels that pose potential disease threat due to inhalation.
  • The same conditions present during sewage inundation by flooding or backflow—wetness, high indoor humidity and the presence of organic matter—also trigger the proliferation of non-sewage microorganisms, most frequently toxic mold growth. These consequences typically begin within 48 hours.

Raw sewage cleanup imposes all the complications of indoor water damage but adds substantial serious health hazards, as well. Sewage backflow into your house from a number of causes including a blockage in your own sewage line or a widespread problem in the municipal sewer system such as inundation due to flood water. Once your home has been contaminated, raw sewage cleanup is a specialized process that doesn’t belong in the DIY category. Here are some reasons why it’s a job for professionals with the knowledge, training and specialized equipment to do the job competently and completely.

The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that the average age of sewer pipes is now over 30 years. This aging infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to tree root intrusion, collapsing pipes, internal residue buildup and other events that may obstruct flow and cause reflux of sewage into a house.

Raw sewage clean-up isn’t for the do-it-yourselfer. It’s a health and safety emergency that calls for quick response by trained, properly-equipped plumbing and water damage/mold mitigation professionals.

  • Sewage is a toxic biohazard. Raw sewage contains harmful bacteria including fecal coliform and E.coli, viruses and any and all other toxic substances including chemicals and poisons that may have gone into the municipal sewer system. Crews that specialize in raw sewage clean-up often look like any other toxic clean-up professional, fully clothed in resistant protective garb including eye shields and high-quality breathing protection designed specifically for the purpose. A pair of overalls and a dust mask from the hardware store are not sufficient equipment to ensure personal safety.
  • Contamination is on the move. During clean-up, a major concern is limiting the spread of contamination. Specific precautions are required to prevent toxins present in sewage from migrating to other areas of the house, including sealing off the contaminated area and fully ventilating to the outdoors.
  • Deep decontamination techniques are required. Just as water penetrates to the deepest recesses in a house, sewage does, too, along with the pathogens it contains. Simply mopping up or disinfecting surface evidence of raw sewage is not effective cleanup.
  • DIY disinfectants may not be sufficient. The do-it-yourself disinfectant of choice—household bleach—may not always be the most effective option against infectious microorganisms found in sewage and/or may not provide lasting disinfection potency.
  • Odor matters, too. The pungent, penetrating odor of raw sewage is difficult to clear from any enclosed structure. Special odor absorbents and high-volume ventilation equipment are usually required.

The Problem With The Dangers Of Raw Sewage Under House

I have an older home with a bothersome smell. After maneuvering into the dirt crawl space under the house, a broken pipe was discovered. It had probably been leaking sewage for one or two months. We had the pipe repaired thinking this would solve the smell problem. It did not. We discovered that thick plastic had been laid on top of a muddy composting mess.

We removed the plastic and dug out several inches of sewage/mud. I also laid oyster shells on top of the damp ground to help neutralize the smell. I then opened all foundation vents and placed a fan to blow the air out from under the house. So long as the fan is blowing, the smell does not drift up through the wood floor and stink up the house.

Urgent Actions To Start Dealing with The Issue

Don’t come in contact with the sewage water, don’t step in it or track it though out the house. Wash with disinfectant all areas that may have been tracked, wash touch points also, such as door knobs. Discard any carpet, sheet rock or insulation that came in contact with the sewage water along with any soft contents that cannot be cleaned.

If it is a raised floor then there could be sewage under the floor or between layers of floor that needs to be inspected and cleaned/sanitized. Any remaining material needs to be sanitized and dried out. Use heat and/or dehumidifiers, and verify that it is dry with a moisture meter to prevent mold growth. Contractors performing this type of service should follow the IICRC S520 Standard for water/sewage mitigation (Category 3 Water – sewage water can be heavily contaminated and contain pathogens or toxins). IICRC S520 is the only American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard that specifically addresses cleanup after floods.

While you request help of a service contractor, or you are waiting to receive some quotes to compare, complete these actions urgently, right below:

  • Stay out of the basement.
  • Keep kids and pets away, too.
  • Avoid breathing sewage fumes.
  • Infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with compromised immune systems should immediately evacuate the house until it is declared safe to return by a qualified professional.
  • Slow the flow. Don’t flush any toilets, run water down drains, wash clothes, etc. If you know where your sewer cleanout port is located—it’s a capped pipe in the ground along the route of the buried sewer pipe out in your yard—removing the cap may allow backed-up sewage to pour out through the cleanout. Relieving pressure in the pipe this way won’t resolve the clog, but it may greatly reduce the volume of sewage backflowing into your house.
  • Cut the power. If sewage has already contacted electrical outlets, extension cords, appliances, etc., call an electrician and stay out of that part of the house for your own safety. If the area around your main electrical panel is still dry and you can access the panel without contacting any sewage, shut off the power to rooms affected by sewage or to the entire house.
  • Ventilate the house opening doors and windows. While biohazards present in raw sewage are generally not airborne, the fumes are caustic, noxious and may trigger allergic reactions in individuals. Sewage has a particularly penetrating odor, as well, that may persist if it is absorbed by household materials. Open as many windows as you can safely reach and, if power is still present, run fans to flush the home with fresh air and reduce infiltration of sewer fumes as much as possible. The contaminants are in the air as well as the sewage material, and can even contain hazardous chemicals. The added air will also help to bring down the humidity and start the drying process.
  • Assume that anything the sewage touched – even if it’s now dry – is contaminated. Disease causing contaminants will remain behind after moisture is removed. Be especially careful in close areas, like crawlspaces.
  • Turn off any electrical power if it can be safely accessed. Just as with any flood disaster, water and electricity don’t mix. If you can’t reach shutoffs without stepping in the contaminated area, leave.
  • Turn off any water sources that might be adding to the drain system. That includes sinks and toilet flushing. If necessary the building’s water supply may need to be shut off.
  • Contact your septic company if the system is tank based, or sewer department if on a public sewer. They may help with emergency pumping, and assist you in determining the cause of the leak.
  • Contact a professional environmental remediation company. This isn’t a plumber (although you’ll likely need one of those too). Trained environmental remediation specialists will identify and control the leak and clean and decontaminate the area safely. They will use all required safety equipment and follow HAZMAT protocols, safely dispose of contaminated materials and contents, and ensure that the property is dry and safe to reenter.
  • Contact your insurance company if your property has been damaged.
  • Remove the Source of contaminated materials: If you don’t remove the source of contaminated materials and materials remain wet, you will still have an odor. The vent needs to be cleaned, sanitized and then dried. Anyone handling the cleanup should, at a minimum, wear gloves, mask and goggles. And afterwards be sure to clean your hands and wash your clothes to prevent cross-contamination.

Proposed Solution

“The most common pathogens in sewage are bacteria, parasites and viruses. They cause a wide variety of acute illnesses including diarrhea and infections. These illnesses can be violent and unpleasant, but mostly pass after several days or weeks with no lasting effects. In some cases, however, pathogens can cause serious long-term illnesses or even death.”

The sewage and contaminated soils under the home should be removed by professionals who have the experience and proper equipment to work in such hazardous conditions.

Once the area has been decontaminated, a layer of 6-mil plastic vapor barrier can be installed.

If you are a determined DIYer, though, make sure you wear a long-sleeved shirt, rubber gloves, eye protection and a half-facemask respirator.

Use a sled or piece of plywood as a skid with a rope attached so that a helper can pull the buckets of soil out and a second rope attached so that you can retrieve the empty buckets without having to go in and out with each load.

Once the area has been cleaned, spread hydrated lime to reduce the odors and to dry the soils. Cover the entire dirt floor with a 6-mil vapor barrier. Discard the rubber gloves, clean your tools with a mild bleach-and-water solution and launder your work clothes immediately.

In a basement, use a wet/dry vacuum to clean the spill, emptying the canister into a toilet. Any contaminated material including carpeting and wall coverings should be discarded. Place smaller items in plastic garbage bags and set outside for proper disposal.

Woodwork and wood furniture can be washed using 1 cup household bleach to 1 gallon of warm water. Venting the basement using fans will help to remove odors and speed the drying process.

Lime For Raw Sewage

I discourage to utilize lime powder in most cases in crawl spaces and basements in this article. Nevertheless, considering the dangers of raw sewage under house, I analyze that the controlled risks of using lime for raw sewage are quite low in comparison with the severe health issues and the problems with air quality that can happen.

Waste Disposal

The general rule is, all items directly contacted by raw sewage should be discarded using methods that comply with local and state regulations for toxic waste disposal. Attempting to disinfect sewage-saturated materials such as carpeting, furniture, drywall, insulation, bedding, and clothing is typically more labor-intensive and expensive than replacement. Valuables deemed to be irreplaceable will require professional decontamination procedures before being safe to handle.

If for whatever reason, you do not want to dispose the objects that were in contact, use the following solution:

Clean all sides that were in the contaminated water. Use detergents that are cleaners/disinfectants, such as Fantastic spray, Clorox non-bleach cleaners, Clorox or Lysol disinfecting wipes. Wipe all edges with detergent and a rag and wear gloves.

Diseases Caused by Raw Sewage Exposure

  • Campylobacteriosis: Symptoms of this disease include fever, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting.  this bug commonly found in animal faeces, is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. Government figures indicate that it is responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year, and 100 deaths. Most of these will be caused by poor food hygiene in the home or in restaurants. However campylobacter is also found in sewage, so coming into contact with raw sewage from a sewage spill could result in a potentially deadly infection.
  • Cryptosporidiosis: This waterborne disease causes a slight fever, diarrhea, loose or watery stools, upset stomach, and stomach cramps. Cryptosporidium can cause diarrhoea in healthy people but can be fatal for people who are already frail or unwell. It is a particular risk for people with immune deficiencies.
  • Diarrheagenic E. coli: Drinking fecal-contaminated water can expose you to E. coli, resulting in fever, watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. A bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine, so also found in sewage. It is also closely linked with food poisoning, through food being prepared in unhygienic conditions, or with contaminated water. In 2000, an inquest hears that an eight-year-old girl who died of E coli poisoning could have caught the infection from sewage discharged into the sea near the beach where she played.
  • Gastroenteritis: Also known as the stomach flu, this infection causes fever, watery diarrhea, headaches, abdominal cramps, and vomiting.
  • Giardiasis: The Giardia parasite spreads this disease, causing diarrhea, loose or watery stools, upset stomach, and stomach cramps.
  • Hepatitis A: This viral liver disease is contracted from ingesting infected fecal matter. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Salmonellosis: Caused by exposure to Salmonella, this disease can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. A gram-negative and hardy bacterium, which can survive outside a host, making it one of the most dangerous types of bacteria in raw sewage. Salmonella can cause gastroenteritis, typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever, all potential killers.
  • Dysentery: Ingesting contaminated fecal water can cause this disease, symptoms of which include fever, bloody diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
  • Typhoid fever: A bacterial disease spread through contaminated food and water, this disease causes high fever, weakness, cough, headaches, stomach pains, and loss of appetite. Some people also experience a rash.
  • Listeria Bacteria: It is common in nature, including sewage, and can cause a potentially deadly infection called listeriosis. Most infections in healthy adults cause only mild symptoms. However, elderly people, and those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer and AIDS, may suffer severe potentially fatal illness, including meningitis and septicaemia. Unborn children can suffer a particularly deadly condition as a result of listeria poisoning, called meningoencephalitis, which has a 50% death rate.
  • Adenovirus: This virus is quite commonly found in sewage. It causes respiratory infections like pneumonia, croup and bronchitis. It is also known tocause eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, which can be severe. Deaths are rare. But Adenovirus is the second most common cause of severe respiratory illness in children, and can be fatal, especially for babies under the age of six months.
  • Norovirus: Known as the winter vomiting bug, and also called the Norwalk virus, this is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis around the world. The virus is present in sewage. For example, oyster farmers in Cornwall (UK) warn that norovirus has been found in oysters living in seawater contaminated with sewage, and that food poisoning caused by eating oysters contaminated by norovirus in this way is common. Elderly people are particularly at risk from norovirus.
  • Rotavirus Another potentially fatal virus found in raw sewage. It is the most common cause of diarrhoea in small children. In developing countries, it is a major killer. The World Health Organization estimated that, globally, 453 000 child deaths occurred during 2008 due to rotavirus infection.
  • Asphyxiation: Sewage generals a number of harmful gases, known collectively as sewer gas. Gases include methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. This can have deadly consequences, especially for people who work on sewers or sewage treatment plants or who have septic tanks. In 2014, seven family members on a pig farm in Poland died when they were all overcome by noxious gas from their septic tank. The mother had fallen into the tank when she drove a tractor onto its cover and it gave way. The rest of the victims had tried to rescue her.
  • Drowning: Sewage is commonly a liquid, so sadly there are regular cases of people drowning in it. In one unusual case, a women in London is thought to have walked into a large sewer in an agitated state then crawled for eight miles through the pipes before falling into water and drowning. In some cases, hydrogen sulphide gas has created acid, which has corroded septic tank covers, making them weak, resulting in people falling through them and drowning in the sewage below.

Raw Sewage Remediation Costs

The cost of cleaning up sewage in the crawl space averages between $10 and $25 per square foot. You can also expect these factors to affect the final cost.

  • Difficulty of access to contaminated spaces
  • Length of time between initial spill and cleanup
  • Extent of repairs needed for broken sewer pipes and drain lines
  • Mold removal, remediation and restoration services
  • Any necessary structural tear-out and reconstruction

Recommended Articles

We have some articles that I would like to recommend to the readers.

Foundation Repair And Maintenance

We have described here the type of foundations, what is a foundation inspection and what should be included in a good foundation inspection checklist. We can discover problems in the foundation to make us ask ourselves if it is safe to live in a house with foundation problems, and what entails a foundation repair. Not only the repair activity itself but how it affects our wallets.

I explain if the foundation repair is actually covered by homeowners insurance and the actual foundation repair cost. We disaggregated these foundation repair costs and determined, the cost per pier when footings or piers are the solutions for the settlement of a foundation.

To repair a foundation, the service provider might require an underpinning system using piers: push piers vs helical piers where helical piers are preferable for residential real estate objects, despite their costs. Also when you compare helical piers with concrete footings, we can determine that helical piers are more cost-efficient than concrete footings, in my opinion.

We have water in the crawlspace, which can be an issue for the whole foundation if the problem persists, and an additional difficulty when selling a house with water in the crawl space, as it can provide the prospective buyer with a lot of bargaining power, so what can we do: I explain what to do when the crawlspace is flooded or there are simply puddles of water always standing, thus I describe how to remove quickly the water in the crawlspace and how to prevent the problem for the future. So I discuss if it is normal to have water in the crawlspace after a heavy rain, and the importance to perform a crawlspace waterproofing thereafter, normally by installing a vapor barrier.

I describe how to improve the air quality in the crawlspace and to accomplish this, I am reluctant to use lime powder in this article, where I explain the pros and cons, as I would be using lime powder only to avoid the dangers of raw sewage under the house.

We discuss the sill plate replacement cost and how to avoid the outdoor sump pump freezing because it happened to me once.

There are always new methods for repairing foundations. One of them that we investigate here is the Powerbrace foundation repair method.

Animals can be a problem when they live near the foundation: In the following articles, we describe how to remove them and how to prevent them from digging and burrowing. The articles are about animals digging holes around the foundation or when they are burrowing below concrete, below a concrete slab, or between gaps in concrete footings, for example.

In regards to basements, I describe how to solve the hydrostatic pressure in the basement, which is a lateral pressure that is the main cause for having a basement wall that is bowing, or that can be caving in or buckling. While a slight inward curve for basement wall bowing is acceptable, after that degree, you have to address the issue and face sometimes relatively high basement wall repair costs.

I provide to you some reasons why we will need a certified specialist to deal with a risky sewage backup in the basement because bacteria survive a long time in a contaminated sewage network, and also we discuss how to deal with a basement drain backing up in general and what to do when it happens only when flushing the toilet, something that is not a DYI project at all.


I explain here the process of concrete lifting or concrete raising, which can be done through mudjacking or slabjacking. We recommend the latter, which injects polyurethane foam.


There are some interesting articles here, in this Framing category. I refer to sistering floor joists, as a methodology to reinforce existing floor joists with some emphasis on sistering 2x6 floor joists or sistering with 2x8 instead, and about the building code for sistering joists, for sistering rafters, and the code for notching floor joists.

Many of these problems have a consequence: sinking or sagging floors.

Water Heaters

About water heaters, we have a complete guide about water heater types and their installation requirements, about power vent water heaters, and venting in tankless devices, and I also explain in detail the difference between a mobile home water heater and a standard water heater. I also describe in detail how to remove the heating element without an element wrench using just a socket, and how to fix leaks.

We have a few reviews when a water heater falls into our hands, such as the Titan product portfolio, Navien lineup, the Titan N-160 reviews, the most praised by our readers, and the Rinnai R94LSi.

I study several water heater capacities and tested 20-gallon water heater units and a comparison between point of use and tankless water heaters.

We open a tankless water heater to show how does it look like inside a tankless water heater, and how to protect your water heater against the effects of hard water. I also explain the pros and cons of tankless water heaters because many people consider that tankless units are better than standard heaters and it is not always the case.

After the lifecycle of the water heater is over, I reveal to you different options to proceed with its disposal.


Just because they became popular and related to current news, I study how to identify aluminum wiring and once discovered, how to proceed with its remediation or retrofit.

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I have a featured article where I compare Orkin vs Terminix pest control services.

Photo of author

BY M. Kogan

Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.

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