You have probably watched a similar scene on a television sitcom or movie screen: a septic tank backs up just before an outdoor wedding takes place and comedic bedlam ensues. In reality, a sewage back up is no laughing matter. Raw sewage is a potential health hazard and repairs can be very costly. Contact a professional at the first sign of problems. The symptoms will not go away.
Identify the Cause
With some rare exceptions, privately owned septic systems are generally the owner's responsibility. Contact a septic pumping company to come and assess your problem. If you are in a residential area with city water and sewers, try to determine if the blockage is located in your house or in the main sewer line. Contact your neighbors to see if they are experiencing problems. If they are, the blockage may be in the main line. Contact your city or county water and sewer department. If the blockage is located in your household plumbing, you will have to personally contract the services of a plumber and pay for the repairs.
Open sewage is a serious health risk. Exposure can cause diarrhea and serious diseases, such as hepatitis. Do not approach the area. Contact your local health department for guidance. In most cases, the department will send an inspector to assess the situation. Depending on the cause, your local government may oversee cleanup, provide you with the information to hire a qualifying cleaning service or instructions on how to safely clean the spill yourself.
Post the Area
Protect family pets by keeping them inside or chained away from the infected area. Cordon off the area and place warning signs to keep people out of the area. Never approach an area with raw sewage without proper safety gear. Do not try to bury the wet area with additional soil. If it is the source of the leak, covering it may cause the sewage to back up into your house.
Conserve your water use until repairs are made. In the case of a leaking pipe or septic tank over flow, running water, flushing toilets and using garbage disposals may add to the problem. In severe cases, it may be beneficial to leave the home until repairs are made.
Call Insurance Agent
Check with your homeowners insurance to see if you are covered for this type of damage. Depending on your area, sewer back up coverage may be available. In most cases, this type of coverage is purchased as a separate rider to your policy, but it never hurts to check.