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Sewage Backups Are Dangerous

are sewage backups dangerous

Every day, we go about our lives and we may take things for granted. Our lights are kept on by the electric companies, the heat may be kept on by gas companies, and our entertainment is given to us by cable companies and Internet service providers. However, there are things that we may not want to think about, like sewage lines and the inner workings of our plumbing.

Without sewage companies and the pipes that run through our floors and beneath the ground, there could still be a lot of problems. Plumbing has been around for a long time, ever since the Bronze Age in the time of 4000BC, made from clay by the Babylonians. While these systems weren’t perfect, they got the job done well enough to keep the water flowing.

Even with all our advances in technology, however, some malfunctions can happen. Whether it’s old infrastructure, bad piping, or broken pipes, anything could happen that could cost you thousands of dollars to fix. However, there are plenty of health concerns when it comes to sewage backups. Sewage backups are dangerous.

How Dangerous Are Sewage Backups?

In order to understand why the backup is dangerous, we must first understand what it is. As most know, sewage is… basically waste from other humans (or animals). There are so many bacteria and so many germs from this stuff that it caused the deaths of many back in the middle ages when the black plague and other diseases ran rampant.

There are bacteria in human excrement that can kill in some cases. While that is the worst case scenario, they can cause many health concerns that may cause a lot more problems for you and your family. Some of these pathogens are:


You may have heard of this bacteria dealing with different types of meats, unpasteurized dairy, and untreated water. Most strands of E. coli are harmless, but there are many different types. Some can cause bloody diarrhea, anemia, or kidney failure. It is rampant in sewage water, so coming into contact with these liquids expose you and your body to it.

Salmonella and Shigella

These are other strands of bacteria that have different forms, but they both create a type of food poisoning in your body. They can cause a severe infection for those who have weak or impaired immune systems. Both can be found in pet feces as well as beef, milk, eggs, and poultry. They cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever that can last for up to a week.


With another bacteria strand that has more than one form, this one has two groups. Group A can cause strep throat, scarlet fever, impetigo, and cellulitis. Group B causes more problems in those with weaker or impaired immune systems, including urinary tract infections, skin infections, pneumonia, and blood infections. These bacteria is also the cause of “pink eye” and “strep throat”.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

This bacterium can cause disease in plants, animals, and humans. While not incredibly dangerous to those without impaired immune systems, it can cause infections in the blood, pneumonia, and can lead to severe illness and death. It can cause ear infections in children, skin rashes, and eye infections as well.


This bacterium isn’t as crucial as the others, but it can cause symptoms similar to tuberculosis, which are coughing, coughing up blood or mucus, fever, night sweats, lack of appetite, weight loos, and fatigue. There are hundreds of bacteria and bacterial viruses that fall under this species, but only a few are toxic to humans.

What Diseases Can Develop From Sewage Backup?

While bacterial infections are one thing, diseases that can develop from these bacteria and viruses can be even more detrimental. Sewage water isn’t only infested with bacteria, after all. Many other diseases can crop up, including:

  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Encephalitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Thyroid Fever
  • And others

By no means are these the only diseases that can come from sewage water. You can see why it is imperative to do what you can to prevent it or get it fixed right away. These diseases can affect anyone in your family, including your pets and children. But why would you have to worry about sewage backup in the first place?

What Happens When Sewage Backs Up?

In some cases, a pipe can burst outside or something might black the drainage from moving properly. It can be fine if it’s outside, but the bacterial and viral pathogens will still be present if it’s a sewer line. The worst case scenario is a sewage line that backs up through your toilet or other water lines, which is completely possible.

If you suffer from backed-up sewage, never try to handle it yourself unless you’re a professional plumber or sewage cleaner. Any of the bacteria or viruses can infect you if you come into contact with any sewage water, which can only add a hospital bill to your sewage bill. If you have to interact with the water in any way, wear protective gear like gloves, a mask, rubber boots, and suitable clothing. Sewage water can infect through not only skin contact, but inhalation as well! Avoid it all if you can.

Sewage Backup Warning Signs

There are plenty of signs that show a blockage or barrier keeping water and sewage from flowing. The first major sign over anything else is your toilet or bathtub gurgling. Nothing that moves water should gurgle, so pay attention when your house is talking to you. If you hear it early enough, you can get a plumber out immediately for a smaller fee than repairing a backup.

The second most obvious warning sign is the toilet or bathtub not actually draining. In some cases, the sink may back up as well. If things simply aren’t draining, the blockage may come from something simple. Hair or some other object can cause a blockage, but it is still a good idea to call a plumber if a drain liquid can’t push it out. If water is coming up from the drain, it could be a sewage block.

It’s a good idea to have a plumber or sewage expert to inspect your pipes and drainage at least once a year, however. In this type of business, it’s always better safe than sorry. Early blockage detection can mean the difference between hundreds of dollars and thousands of dollars. Not only that, but it could also ruin a home and cause mold infestation later on.

What Should You Do When Sewage Backs Up?

It may seem like a hopeless endeavor, but don’t worry! There are plenty of people out there that are trained for this situation. Call a plumber, sewage cleaner, or another sort of pipe-professional before you do anything. If you’re in an apartment, contact your landlord immediately. Don’t panic, as that won’t make the situation any better.

At the moment you notice water backing up in either your bathtub or toilet, you should immediately turn your water off. If that doesn’t help, there should be a pipe or valve outside your house that can be opened to let the excess water drain out. Always call a plumber or your landlord to see if there’s any way to do either of these things.

Try to block off as much of it as you can. If it’s in the bathroom, shut the door and keep it closed until it is fixed. Remember, the pathogens from sewage water can even come from inhaling it, so keep as much of it away as you can. If need be, consider vacating the premises until a plumber or sewage expert fixes the problem.

What Causes Sewage Backups?

There are many things that can cause sewer backups. A few of them you may not be able to control, but most of them, you can. There are a few common things that occur, but these are not the only things that can happen. The most common problems are:

Tree Roots

Some plumbing structures have been in the ground for decades, not really minding a few small trees around. However, the small tree could eventually become a big tree and cause pipes to rupture or block from growing into them. People often underestimate how far tree roots can grow and they can grow through and break your sewage lines.


This is what happens whenever you flush down something other than toilet paper down your toilet. Things like napkins, paper towels, and other tough tissues will most certainly lead to a clog to where your pipes back up or even break. This goes for sinks and garbage disposals, too. Never pour grease or shove large items down the disposal.

Structural Defects

If your home is older, the plumbing could be old as well. Plastic pipes have become the go-to material for sewage and water lining. The previous pipe layouts were made of clay and cast iron, making them not only easy to degrade from natural causes, but it makes them brittle and easily broken. Laying new pipe is expensive, so be sure you know what you’re getting into when purchasing a home.

Ways to Prevent Sewage Backups

While we can’t exactly control the ways that trees grow, there are ways to prevent sewage backup and further protect your home from potential leaks, pipe breaks, and possible flooding.

Don’t Flush Objects or Anything That’s Not Toilet Paper

While it was listed above, the importance of this is above all others. Creating a clog in your pipes will be one of the worst things that can happen to your pipes when it is completely preventable. Even if the flush is powerful, the water will slow down and the clog will begin. The same goes for grease and too many solid objects for a garbage disposal like bones, coffee grounds, and other things.

Install a Backwater Valve

While this can be somewhat costly if you don’t have a basement, it will still save you a lot of money in the long run. A few hundred is a lot better than a few thousand. A backwater valve is a one-way sewage valve that doesn’t allow it back into your house. Rainfall is a big problem in some communities, so this backwater valve can save your basement and home.

Install a Floor Drain

If you have a basement or if your ground floor is close enough to your water lines, you can install a floor drain. These can also have flood guards, but should only be needed for a separate storm drain system. It can help, but it’s not a necessity.

Periodic Plumber Inspection

Inspections can cost as little as $100-200 to be done and can be done at any time. The plumber or sewage inspection service can tell you if you’ll need some backup prevention or not. If you live in an apartment or renting a home, work out with your landlord how you should go about doing it. These can save you a lot of time and heartache!


Sewage backup can be a pain both physically and mentally. It not only can be a financial crisis, but a health crisis as well. Sewage water contains tons of bacteria, some of which can make you terribly sick. Some of them can even kill you if diseases develop. Kidney failure is a reality. Never mess with sewer water if you can help it.

There are plenty of experts out there that can help you with sewage problems. They range from normal plumbers to actual sewer experts. If there’s a problem with your drainage or you see discolored water bubbling up from your bathtub, sinks, or toilet, call a professional immediately. You can prevent a lot of damage if you recognize the warning signs early.

If you do have to move around sewage water, make sure to wear protective garments: a mask, gloves, rubber boots, and proper clothing. Sanitize whatever you can whenever you deal with sewage water and make sure to wash yourself immediately after. Vacate the premises if you need to, as pathogens can infect you through simply inhaling sewage fumes.

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