Sewage Cleaning References

Effects And Causes

There’s no denying that encountering a sewage overspill can be a horrible experience for anybody. Whether indoors or outdoors, you can be left in a complete mess, which can have a damaging effect on your life for quite some time. So the earlier you can spot the tell-tale signs, the better.

If you’ve started to notice that your drains don’t clear away water as quickly as they used to, or perhaps it’s now become difficult to flush your toilet, this is a prime sign that your drains are blocked. If left alone, this could potentially cause flooding.

Sewer abuse - The most common culprit for sewage overflows!

Sewers are only designed to carry three things; wastewater, toilet tissue and human waste. Anything else should quite simply go in the bin. Some items might be labelled as ‘flushable’ but in reality, they can take years to break down, so if they don’t fall into the three categories listed above, then bin them!

Two of the main causes for drain blockages in the home is cooking oils and fats, and wet wipes and sanitary items that are not degradable. Oils and fats solidify and form a thick layer around the pipe, which ultimately prevents the sewage from flowing in the right direction. However, this can be avoided with a ‘fat trap’ that are free to order from Thames Water.

Whilst there are no current laws in place to prevent this from happening, it falls down to the general public to be aware of the detrimental effects it can have, and step up to the responsibility of looking after our environment.

Increase in pressure

There are many contributing factors that can lead to an increase in drainage pressure that, in turn, can result in flooding. This can be population growth or a change in the current climate.

There is also the issue of ‘green spaces’ which are deliberately left open to provide a natural drainage solution. However, paving over these consequently increases the amount of pressure put on the sewage networks.

Illegal connections

The discharging of foul waste (human waste) into a clean water (rainwater) drain is illegal. Allowing this to happen is a breach of the Environmental Act 1990, and you could potentially be fined up to £20,000 if the problem is not rectified!

Why is this so important? Well, if a foul waste drain is connected to a clean water drain, the human waste will contaminate the clean water and you can be prosecuted for pollution. If the situation is the other way round and you connect a water drain to a foul waste drain, you can potentially cause flooding, so it is vital to always keep them running separately.

Extreme weathers

Extreme weathers can also cause overflows of sewage, such as heavy rainfalls and storms. This, combined with illegal connections, is a definite cause for disaster, as the water levels are already high due to carrying two forms of waste in only one pipe. If a storm were to happen, the consequences could be disastrous.

Although our sewerage systems are designed to accommodate for heavy water flows, they cannot cope with extremely heavy rainfall. It is on these rare occasions that sewage overflows and causes disruptions to nearby land and even homes.

Health Risks

Potential risks to health

As well as being hugely inconvenient and extremely unpleasant, when undergoing a sewage clean-up you are ultimately exposing yourself to raw sewage, which consequently puts your health at risk.

If precautions are not put in place before you begin the clean-up, you will become far more vulnerable to the dangerous microorganisms, which could lead to a more serious viral or bacterial infection, with illnesses including:

  • Hepatitis – This is recognised by Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin) and inflammation of the liver.
  • Gastroenteritis – Vomiting, diarrhoea along with stomach pains and cramps.Weil’s disease – Caught from rats urine, this condition is likened to flu, comes with severe headaches and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.
  • Asthma – Symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness can arise if organisms are inhaled.Eye and skin infection – If the waste water touches your skin or comes into contact with your eyes.
  • Allergic alveolitis – Although very rare, the illness can be recognised by its fever symptoms, along with a dry cough breathlessness and muscle ache.

If you do begin to show signs of any of these then you must make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible.

How can you become susceptible to these illnesses?

Microorganisms can be good and bad, and it’s the good ones that help fight off the bad. However, it’s the harmful ones that live within sewage and if these enter the body, that is when you can fall victim to the various illnesses.

The microorganisms can enter the body via three main ways:

  • Orally – Contracting contaminated substances through the oral cavity, for instance hand-to-mouth action when eating, drinking or wiping the face with unclean hands.
  • Breaks in the skin – Any cuts or open wounds you may have.
  • Respiratory – Inhaling up through the nose.

How to avoid the risks

So now you’re clued up on just how serious the exposure to sewage can be, the next and most important thing to learn is how to avoid the risks – i.e. how to prevent the microorganisms from entering your body!

The Clean Safe team have come up with a handy checklist, outlining all the necessary and practical safety measures you must implement when cleaning up sewage.

Health & Safety Checklist

  • Wear protective clothing e.g.waterproof gloves, waterproof overlays with old clothes underneath that you don’t mind getting grubby, masks or face visors, goggles, footwear (boots).
  • Cover up any cuts or grazes you might have with plasters and bandages.
  • Throw away any food that may have been contaminated. If the water has spread outdoors to the garden, then you must also throw away any crops.
  • Thoroughly wash hands using a sanitiser or disinfectant after contact with sewage water – follow our guide here. (link to hand washing infographic?)
  • Keep fingernails as short as possible and use a nail brush to remove any dirt that becomes trapped.
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