Proper Cleaning of Contaminated Flood Events in Your Home: Carpet Cleaning is not Enough

E Coli Bacteria

Sewer overflows and back-ups are common property water emergencies.   Proper remediation of your home is essential to restore a healthful and safe environment for occupants.  Restoration procedures for these types of events are often extensive and costly.  Understandably, consumers want to make sure they are getting the right service for their money and not getting taken for a ride.   What do you need to know to make sure the job is done right?

Understanding the Situation

The type of water introduced to your home environment during these events, in our industry, is labelled Category 3 water.  Each category of water (there are three) has its own remediation standards and risk ratings.  Category 3 water is defined as ” …grossly unsanitary, and could cause severe illness or death if ingested.  Sources for category 3 water include, but are not limited to, sewage; flooding from rivers or streams; wind-driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap; water from the toilet bowl with feces [basement ejector pumps]; and standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.”

Often, this water may appear mostly clear, and homeowners might assume that is not actually “dirty water”.  Appearances can be deceiving.   According to one definition, sewage consists mostly of grey water (from sinks, tubs, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers), black water (the water used to flush toilets, combined with the human waste that it flushes away); soaps and detergents; and toilet paper.  Even though this flood water may not contain obvious feces (although it can), the connection to your septic and home waste removal system, creates a pathway for the introduction of bacteria and contaminates none-the-less.  Ejector pumps for example, often clear waste water from lower level bathrooms where traditional plumbing in not available.  The basins for these pumps contain raw, untreated, sewage.

Is Carpet Cleaning Enough?

Depending upon the surface exposure to contaminated water and the nature of the material, it is recommended by industry experts, that “[Remediation Companies] remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas and remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials (e.g. wooden baseboard, saturated drywall and wall coverings)”.  Materials not removed, may remain impregnated with the contaminants from sewage (e.g. viruses, bacteria (including e-coli), and fungi) .  Beyond the obvious risk of exposure to these substances, a fertile ground for mold growth can be created.

Frequently, we will meet customers who have had category three water events in their home and have merely extracted the water and steam cleaned the carpets.   A remediation specialist who proposes that this is sufficient, in an attempt to save you money, is not really doing you any favors.  As industry experts, certified technicians, know that this falls short of the recommended steps for a safe and complete home restoration.  The cost of full restoration, may lead consumers to make decisions that can leave their homes and its inhabitants at risk.

According to the Carpet Buyers Handbook, “This type of flooding [unsanitary water] can produce serious health effects…All floor covering materials must be discarded and other surfaces should be carefully evaluated.”   In fact, only in instances of sanitary water leaks, is extraction of water sufficient if handled immediately.

What are the Recommended Steps?

Our industry standards of care are taken from the ANSI/IICRC S500 and S520 guidelines for professional water damage restoration (The American National Standards Institute/Institute of Inspection and Cleaning and Restoration Certification).  To properly address a Category 3 water event, your remediation specialist should:

  1. Locate the source of the water and stop any further intrusion. It may be required to contact a professional plumber or other contractor.
  2. Protect furniture and personal items.
  3. Extract water from carpet and/or pad using a sub-surface extraction tool.
  4. Apply a biocide to all affected surfaces to help prevent and retard the growth of microbials.
  5. Remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas. Remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials.
  6. Inspect all areas that water may have traveled. Document all moisture levels in affected areas.
  7. Install air movers (approx. every 10-15 linear feet) and dehumidifiers. All air movers should be blowing in the same direction.
  8. Monitor job daily. Record all drying data and keep accurate records.
  9. Reinstall carpet with new pad after drying is complete.
  10. Replace all structure materials that were removed.
  11. After drying is complete, all affected areas will need to be cleaned.

 

Because all water events are unique, Helpers will assess a home flood to determine the source and the extent of work that should be completed to insure full restoration.  These standards are well known within our industry and established by our certification body.  Carpet cleaning and extraction may be sufficient for clean water floods, such as with an over-filled tub or a burst pipe, however, if the source is more nefarious, make sure you know what the proper procedures are.  Helpers’ mission is to restore your home to pre-event health and safety.  We wouldn’t cut corners in our own homes and we won’t cut corners in yours.

 

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