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When you have a sewage leaking into a building or property, you’ve got more than a horrible smell. Raw sewage can be a serious health hazard, even in small amounts. Sewage spills contain bacteria, viruses and parasites, and if not cleaned up quickly, and effectively, you’re exposing family or employees to serious illness and disease.

Sewage spills can be caused anywhere across the septic or sewage system: An overflowing septic tank, tree roots invading and blocking underground lines, misaligned sewage pipes that cause buildup over time, or blockages within the interior systems caused by improper materials flushed down toilets. The spill itself can range from limited – an overflowing toilet – to extreme – a burst pipe blanketing a floor in sludge. The extent of the contamination and the underlying cause of the spill will factor into the steps you need to take next.

sewage spills


  • Assume that anything the sewage touched – even if it’s now dry – is contaminated. Disease causing contaminants will remain behind after moisture is removed. Be especially careful in close areas, like crawlspaces.
  • Open any windows and door to circulate air. The contaminants are in the air as well as the sewage material, and can even contain hazardous chemicals. The added air will also help to bring down the humidity and start the drying process.
  • Turn off any electrical power if it can be safely accessed. Just as with any flood disaster, water and electricity don’t mix. If you can’t reach shutoffs without stepping in the contaminated area, leave.
  • Turn off any water sources that might be adding to the drain system. That includes sinks and toilet flushing. If necessary the building’s water supply may need to be shut off.
  • Contact your septic company if the system is tank based, or sewer department if on a public sewer. They may help with emergency pumping, and assist you in determining the cause of the leak.
  • Contact a professional environmental remediation company. This isn’t a plumber (although you’ll likely need one of those too). Trained environmental remediation specialists will identify and control the leak and clean and decontaminate the area safely. They will use all required safety equipment and follow HAZMAT protocols, safely dispose of contaminated materials and contents, and ensure that the property is dry and safe to reenter.
  • Contact your insurance company if your property has been damaged.


  • Allow the sewage to sit. The moisture creates a well-fed breeding ground for dangerous mold growth, on top of the bacteria and parasites in the sewage. As it dries uncontrolled, the contaminants become airborne.
  • Handle any of the sewage material, or anything it came in contact with, without proper protective gear. Regular soaps and detergents are no match for the contaminants present in wastewater.
  • Run any air/heating/cooling systems. Airborne pathogens that were limited to the spill area will be spread throughout the building, and contaminate the HVAC system in the process.
  • Move contaminated contents into uncontaminated areas. Even if dry, until they are decontaminated, pathogens can spread onto surfaces they come in contact with. Move them outside to a contained staging area.
  • Try to clean structures, contents or furnishings with conventional cleaning products – even professional grade. Special detergents and disinfectants are needed to safely remove bacteria, fungus and other pathogens.

Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. is a premier provider of emergency response, remediation and disaster recovery for fire, flood, environmental spills and biohazards in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. With IRS included in an organization’s Emergency Response Plan (ERP), businesses will have a pre-qualified contractor with a master services agreement, pricing and insurance in place before a disaster occurs.