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Safety Report: Keeping Raw Sewage Out

Posted: Updated: Nov 24, 2011 10:56 PM EST

What you flush down the toilet isn't supposed to come back up - but when it does, the disgusting mess creates an unhealthy and expensive disaster.

Amory Mellen's ServiceMaster crews clean up raw sewage that backs up into central Virginia homes.  "It's really not a safe environment," he said.  "The sewage is contaminated and it's dangerous to people's health."

They've got the gear to suck out the sewage, and clear away costly contamination.  Mellen stated, "If the furniture were affected, clothing, bedding, anything of that nature including drywall need to be removed and discarded."

W.E. Brown Master plumber David Maupin points out two places in the bathroom where you would see and hear a sewage back-up hidden in your home's pipes.

"When you flush the toilet and you hear something else gurgling, there's a good chance you have a problem getting ready to happen," Maupin said.  "If you start seeing it coming up into the bowl very far, there's probably a problem."

That build-up can take time to reach the point where it overwhelms your home's sewer system and begins spilling out of toilets or drains.  Maupin stated, "Unless something major has happened, it will seep away.  You just need to get it fixed as soon as you possibly can."

Maupin says pipes can settle into the ground over the years, break, and get blocked.  Septic tanks can fill up and back up.  Tree roots can break through, block the flow of sewage, and send it backward into your home.

"Unfortunately with tree roots, if the roots happen a long way from the house, someone may not even notice they're having a problem for a year," said Maupin.

Many plumbers are using new technology, like video cameras, that snake through sewer pipes to find blockages.  "You can actually record what's going on inside if you're expecting you may have a problem," Maupin stated.

Maupin reminds homeowners that proper pipe and septic system maintenance goes a long way to prevent sewage backflow and a dirty disaster.  "We want the sewer to be as cleanly flowing, internally open as wide as possible, no hindrance inside," he said.

Maupin also says homeowners with septic tanks need to check bacteria levels to keep solids settled down in the tank, and have the tank pumped when necessary.

For more information about preventing raw sewage backflow, check out the following links: