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It’s among the worst plumbing problems anyone can imagine. While big leaks or exploding pipes definitely aren’t pleasant, having sewage backing up your pipes into your home or basement is something most homeowners wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. But it’s a problem that many people face. If you suspect your plumbing system might be at risk for a sewage backup, or you’ve had problems with this issue yourself, it’s important to know the risks involved and what you should do when this issue strikes.

Why Do Drains and Sewage Back Up?

Only a professional plumber can pinpoint the cause of your sewage backup problem. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Structural defects.
  • Root infiltration.
  • Improper flushes (items that shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet).
  • Wet weather.
  • Flooding around and under your home.
  • Planning problems with sewage lines.
  • Pipe blockages.
  • Broken or leaking pipes.


How Dangerous are Sewage Back Ups?

Sewage back ups are among one of the worst plumbing problems because of the risk that they present to homeowners and residents. Sewage can spread illness, disease and even death. The National Resources Defense Council reports that nearly 2 million cases of illnesses are caused by sewage contamination each year. Sewage is full of contaminants, viruses and bacteria that pose a serious threat to people and their pets. In addition, sewage may contain other toxic substances like pesticides, residuals from pharmaceutical drugs, fungi and protozoan.

Here are a few of the most common bacteria that are found in sewage and what they can do the human body:

  • E. Coli – Causes abdominal cramping, diarrhea and occasionally death.
  • Acanthomoeba – Causes eye, nose, throat and ear infections.
  • Salmonella – Causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea
  • Heliobacter Pylpri – Leads to increased chance of ulcers
  • Hepatitis – Causes liver infection and liver failure
  • Leptospirosis – Creates muscle aches and vomiting
  • Coronavirus – Including COVID-19

Coming into contact with any of these contaminants can make you ill and send you to the emergency room. Having sewage back up in your home is a risk – and you need to call a plumber immediately.

Steps to Follow When Your Sewage Backs Up

The most important thing to do when you see sewage backing up is to call a plumber! Coming into contact with sewage due in any way – from skin contact to inhalation – can make you sick. Avoid contact completely, if possible.

If you have to cross the sewage filled area, be sure to wear rubber soled shoes and use a breathing mask. Once you’ve crossed, remove your shoes and any clothing that may have come into contact with the sewage.