Wondering what exactly is Black Water? Not sure how to clean it up?
In this guide you will learn:
- What is Black Water & Common Sources of it,
- Dangers of Black Water to your Health & Property,
- How to Clean up Black Water Properly,
- Differences between Blackwater and Grey Water.
For the most part, most people have never had to experience the water damage black water can cause and, hopefully, never will.
Blackwater can be as dangerous as it sounds and can happen without warning.
However, there are ways to deal with black water getting into your home or building.
It is dirty, delicate work but plenty of professionals are available to help if you find yourself in the midst of a black water fiasco.
What Is Black Water?
Black water is water that has become contaminated by materials (feces, grease are usually the main contributors) that make the water completely toxic to the environment.
It is more commonly referred to as “black water sewage” or just “sewage”.
So, is black water dangerous? Despite being a common part of the sewage treatment process, yes, it can be very hazardous to both the environment and your health.
More detail about the diseases and infections it can cause will be explained in a later section.
Common Sources Of Black Water
For the most part, black water issues that occur in homes usually come from the toilet and sewage systems.
Toilets can malfunction, sewage pipes can get backed up, and you can guess what happens from there.
So, where does black water come from other than toilets?
Toilet black water is the most common source but black water coming out of sinks is fairly common as well.
Bathtubs, and even laundry machines can also be sources of black water as well.
When it comes to black water coming up through sewage pipes, it can show up just about anywhere that is connected to those sewage pipes in your home.
Black Water Floods
Black water floods are certainly as bad as they sound. Minor issues with black water are, usually, just a toilet getting backed up and you can only see black water in the actual bowl.
Of course, when you think of black water, the less there is the better.
Although, there have been cases where large amounts of black water floods a home or area and can cause very serious black water contamination to the environment.
This much of it can even make it hazardous to breathe around that area.
Dangers Of Black Water Flooding
Black water floods that are mishandled or left untreated can become incredibly dangerous, not just to those inside a home, but to an entire town.
Briefly mentioned above, black water is pumped full of toxic pathogens that can be deadly to almost all living things, not just humans.
Dangers To Health
A question often asked is ,what happens if you touch black water? Upon seeing black water, many people will try to handle it themselves, especially if it is contained only to the toilet or sink.
Touching black water unprotected is dangerous and risky, however, touching it is not necessarily the life-threatening part.
Black water can certainly cause skin diseases and irritation if handled without protection for a long time, however, breathing the toxic chemicals that emanate from it is what is truly the most hazardous to your health.
Diseases You Can Get From Black Water
A better way to word this section would be “what diseases can you not get from black water?”
Among the worst diseases that you can get from breathing in black water fumes or having it get into an open cut are E. Coli, Cancer, and Blackwater Fever (which is more commonly a complication from getting Malaria).
These are not even half of the potential diseases and infections you can get from extended exposure to black water.
Digestive diseases are the most common, although there have been plenty of skin infections and bacterial illnesses that stem from black water contamination.
Dangers To Your Property
Black water floods can cause massive property damage.
Think about the damage a flood can do due to rainwater and then add in a massive amount of toxic pathogens to the mix in that.
Other than the obvious water damage it will cause to wood furniture, floors, and any electronics, it can cause black mold to grow in your home.
Black mold can be deadly to breathe in and it only takes up to a day for it to begin growing after a black water flood.
Black water is one of the quickest ways to make a property completely uninhabitable and will likely cause thousands of dollars (if not more) in property damage the longer it goes untreated.
Black Water Spill?
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How To Clean Up Black Water
Cleaning up black water is by no means a simple task and demands cautious planning and special equipment.
Depending on how large the affected area is, a large team could be needed to complete the cleanup process of black water.
The process will almost always follow these steps:
- The building should be empty except for those wearing protective clothing such as safety goggles, a facemask (covering the mouth and nose), and protective gloves for those handling the black water directly.
- Once unprotected individuals are out of the area, a cleaning technician will be called in to see exactly how bad the contamination is. Once the damage is assessed, a plan to clean up the black water and prevent any more from coming up is made.
- The cleanup process usually begins with removing any excess water so no more can become contaminated. Any sewage or items that were contaminated by the black water will also be disposed of.
Of course, by “disposed of”, this does not mean contaminated materials are simply thrown in the garbage. Usually, they are handled in special containers and are treated before heading to the landfill.
- Specialized tools, such as negative air machines or air scrubbers, are typically used to keep uncontaminated areas unaffected. Industry-grade disinfectants and cleaners are then used to clean off any surfaces that were contaminated.
This step is the most time-consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive part of the process. Depending on how bad the damage is, the process of cleaning and ensuring the black water does not spread any further can sometimes take days to complete.
- After the sanitation process is finished, industrial-grade drying fans and dehumidifiers are used to bring the area back to a habitable condition. This process can also take multiple days depending on the severity of the flood, however, it is certainly much less labor-intensive.
Disposing Of Black Water
There are specific locations where black water should be disposed of once it is cleaned up and put into a special container.
Surprisingly, these disposal facilities are much more common than people think.
RVers and campers will use these facilities very often to dispose of the black water tanks attached to their vehicles.
Even with larger black water cleanups, in the end, the black water usually comes to one of these outposts where it is then taken to a water treatment facility to be restored.
What Is Black Water Restoration?
After reading all of the dangers of black water it may seem like this water is unsalvageable and unusable forever. However, black water can be recycled and used again as clean water through a filtration process similar to the ones in a home’s septic tank.
A special device is used that pumps in air while the black water is being filtered which allows aerobic bacteria and other helpful organisms to enter the system.
These bacteria actually feed on the harmful pathogens in black water and are able to restore it to usable water.
Once this “aeration” phase is finished, the new water is placed into a tank where the toxic sludge will sink to the bottom and, finally, the water can be filtered again to finish the restoration process.
Black Water Vs. Grey Water
Both black and grey water are ways to categorize contaminated water. The two are, essentially, the same thing just to different severities, black water being the more severe of them.
Black water is usually contaminated from feces, urine, and grease to a point where it is extremely toxic to the environment and people around it.
Black water must be handled much more carefully than grey water and the cleanup process is typically longer and should be handled by professionals.
Grey water is essentially black water just on a less toxic scale. Grey water is usually contaminated by old food (from washing dishes in the sink) or feces to a lesser extent.
While grey water is hazardous to your health, it is nowhere near as bad as black water.
In fact, for homes that are looking to save on their water bill or are not connected to a main line sewage pipe, grey water can be used to fill up and flush the toilet without being a health concern at all.
When to Call a Professional
Black water management should always be left to a professional unless you have a solid amount of experience dealing with black water.
If you have never dealt with this problem in your home, it can be very dangerous to attempt to clean it yourself depending on the source of the black water.
In the event of a black water flood, a team of professionals will likely need to be called in. Remember, it is not just your property that could be affected by black water.
Black water can contaminate whole environments, killing plants, animals, and even people who are unaware of the contaminated area.
Depending on the severity of the accident, the cleanup of black water can get expensive but it is something that must be done quickly and in most cases will be covered by your home insurance.
Black water will only become a worse problem the longer it is left untreated.
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