Sewer Back-Ups: Frequently Asked Questions

Sewer water can contain all types of toxic and hazardous contaminants. In the event of a sewer backup, having the professionals at Burke Emergency Restoration in Manchester, NH properly clean your home or business can help ensure the health and safety of your family and/or employees. The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding Sewer Backups: Is it safe for my family to inhabit the property after a sewer backup? Answer: No. Water that comes from a a sewer system needs to be treated as a hazardous health situation. Category 3, also known as black water, is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic or other harmful agents. What are the common hazards associated with sewer backups? Answer: According to the IICRC there are over 120 different viruses that can be excreted in human feces and urine and find their way into sewage. These can include Rotavirus, causing severe and sometimes life-threatening diarrhea in children, Adenoviruses, causing respiratory and eye infections, and Norovirus, a significant cause of gastric flu or stomach flu. There are also highly infectious parasitic agents like Giardia and Cryptosporidium that can cause chronic and severe intestinal diseases in both children and adults. Bacterial pathogens in sewage can include Salmonella, Shigella and Escherichia coli. These gram-negative organisms contain endotoxins that are released at the time of cell death and destruction. Endotoxins can cause respiratory inflammation, airway restriction, create the potential allergic and infectious disease responses and when inhaled they may adversely influence the central nervous system. Can I just clean up a sewer backup myself? Answer: Improper remediation activities to clean and restore property can cause more and bigger problems. It is possible to spread the contaminated sewer problem from one room to another quite easily. Knowing how to remove and clean a sewer backup is essential for the successful restoration of your property. Burke ER’s professional and experienced technicians are certified to clean up after a sewage loss. Can I just use bleach to clean up a sewer backup? Answer: Although bleach is a common solution for most people, it is a poor solution for sewer backups. It may do a good job of making stains disappear, however, it does a poor job of making the contamination of sewer (category 3) water disappear. We understand that the label may say “It kills 99% of common household germs,” but contamination from sewer water falls does not NOT fall under the category of “common household germs.” We have had customers who attempted to clean a sewer backup with bleach themselves. A certified industrial hygienist who later inspected the house still found high levels of contamination. What can I keep after a sewer backup? Answer: In general, it is recommended that anything that came in contact or possibly came in contact with sewer water be disposed of. Hard surface items that don’t absorb can be cleaned and restored. Due to all of the health hazards of sewer backups we like to operate on the premise “If in doubt, do without!” We suggest asking yourself, “Is keeping this item worth my health and or the health of my family?” How do I really know if everything is cleaned up? Answer: Anyone who says, “Everything is all done, see it looks brand new and smells new too,” is wrong! The only way to “know” for certain if a sewer backup has been successfully restored is to have it tested. We recommend the services of a certified industrial hygienist who is independent. It’s not a good idea to hire someone to restore your property and then use “their” guy to check it out. Look in the phone book or get on the internet and search for a “certified industrial hygienist.”

Proud Members


Fast 24 Hour Response in New Hampshire, Merrimack, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Rockingham, and Strafford Counties. In MA: Essex County, Lowell, MA, Salem, NH, Nashua, NH, Manchester, NH, Concord, NH

Burke Emergency Restoration

Burke Emergency Restoration
850 E. Industrial Park Drive, Unit #6
Manchester, NH 03109