How to Avert Sewage-Contaminated Floodwater

Andreas Klippe Comments February 24, 2018

There is no avoiding the fact that contaminated sewage water will always flow with the floodwaters. It is where pathogens like bacteria, viruses, mold spores, or protozoans are present in large numbers in sewage wastes.

Sewage Contaminated Floodwater

The extent of the contamination will depend on the size of the affected area. The greater the area the greater the contamination coverage and spread of the pathogens. Even flood waters that were not in contact with raw sewage can be contaminated with the microbiological organisms from animal wastes, street runoffs and natural soil.

That what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2004. Thousands of homes were flooded with contaminated water from the Mississippi river. In the years after the hurricane, most of the homes are abandoned because of mildew and fungus growing inside. Making them unsafe for habitation and were demolished.

No matter where the source of the floods it is still full of disease causing pathogens. The contamination will increase once it spreads over a wide area. Bringing along it are microorganisms and bacteria. Is there anything to prevent from contacting the floods?

Prevention tips

The first and obvious choice is to avoid it at all costs. But it is often times difficult especially when it comes higher than usual floods. Here are some tips to mitigate the damages.

1. Waterproof the building and/or seal cracks in foundation floor or walls. This would insure that the water will not contaminate the inside of the structure and also prevents overflowing the septic tanks.

2. Plug the structure drainage system and install a check valve to prevent backflow. This is prevent floodwaters from entering the premises.

3. The drains and gutter downspouts should be installed away from the foundations of the building to prevent weakening. A common mistake of architects when drawing the building is to place the storm drains and gutter canals along the foundations. When heavy rainfall hit the building it rushes down thru the gutter system. If it is near a foundation it will compromise its integrity.

4. If the need to immediately remove the flood to prevent further damage or contamination. Using a sump pump to remove the water from the area is the fastest option.

5. Placing furnitures and other valuables on a higher level from the floods. This would prevent damage and the hassle of cleaning up the mess left by the flood.

Clean-up after the floods

Once the floodwaters have receded, immediate cleanup is required to remove contaminated materials and minimize the potential the spread of the pathogens and more damage to the building. The longer the contamination remains the greater the chance for proliferation of diseases.

Disinfection and sterilization the affected area including the concrete walls and exposure to sunlight would ensure the pathogens are eliminated. Wear protective clothing when cleaning the area and avoid working if you have open wounds where infections could get in.

Salvaging the damaged septic tank would include draining all the water from it, installing a high level alarm and sealing once again more tightly.

Avoid at all costs

Always remember an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Be prepared for any situation when it comes to flooding. Always assume the floodwaters are contaminated with deadly germs that can cause illnesses. Above all, avoid flood prone areas if possible. What can you do to avoid the dirty floodwaters? Post your suggestions here.

Andreas Klippe

About the author

Andreas Klippe is founder of the Asian Center for Flood Control located in Clark Freeport Zone, Philippines.

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