|Sewage Contamination in Flooded Areas
This information is intended for residents of flooded or saturated areas.
Flood waters may contain fecal material and associated bacteria and viruses from overflowing septic tanks and/or public sewerage systems. Although skin contact with flood waters does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, avoid contact if you have open cuts or sores. If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood waters, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, seek immediate medical attention. There is some risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with flood waters.
Do not allow children to play in flood water areas, wash children's hands frequently (especially before meals), and do not allow children to play with flood water-contaminated toys that have not been disinfected. You can disinfect toys using a solution of one ounce of bleach (1/8th cup) in two gallons of water.
Don't wade through standing water. If you must, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
It is critical for you to remember to practice basic hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
If your plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, you should:
1. Conserve water as much as possible, the less water used, the less sewage the system must process. Minimize use of your washing machine--go to a laundry mat. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.
2. Not have a septic tank pumped. Exceptionally high water tables might crush a septic tank that has been pumped dry. If the fundamental problem is high ground water, pumping the tank does nothing to solve that problem.
3. Not have a septic tank and drain field repaired until the ground has dried up so you can tell if any permanent damage has been done to the system. Often systems are completely functional when unsaturated conditions return. Any repair must be permitted and inspected by your county health department.
If there is a back flow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and sheet rock. Walls and hard-surfaced floors should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1/2 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces (countertops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water. Air-dry larger items, such as sofas, in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting.
If you cannot use your plumbing without creating a sanitary nuisance, i.e., without sewage being exposed, for you and your family's health and safety, please consider moving to a new location until conditions improve.