Sewage Backup

What is a Sewage Backup?

Severe rainstorms, floods, and even spring thaws can put a strain on sewers and septic systems. Large volumes of storm water and ground water entering sewage systems can cause backups into basements and onto private property. Blockages in sewer systems can also cause backups.

Your health may be impacted if a sewage backup occurs in your home. Sewage backups can contaminate your private drinking well water. It can also pollute nearby drinking water sources.

In order to maintain a healthy living environment, thorough cleaning of indoor sewage spills is necessary to protect people and pets from harmful bacteria and viruses.

1. Right Away

  • DO NOT flush the toilets
  • BE SAFE - Prevent Electrocution! Turn off the power if there is standing water or the possibility of electrical wires coming into contact with water or soggy materials.
  • Keep all children and pets away from the sewage
  • Wear rubber gloves when handling anything contaminated with sewage. Wash hands immediately afterwards. NEVER touch raw sewage with bare hands.
  • If your home is served by a municipal sewer system, contact your municipal water and sewer department or go to their website.
  • If your home has a septic system, call your local health department for advice about how to dispose of the water/sewage. Then proceed to the next step. Call your homeowner’s insurance provider. They may have clean-up companies* on contract who know how to deal with property damage from sewage back-ups.
  • Call a professional water damage restoration company if your insurance company does not have one.

basement flood

2. Dry the Space Out

  • All standing water needs to be removed. A sump pump, wet vac, or bucket may be used. For municipal sewer systems, call your local water pollution control authority or public works department for advice about pumping out after a back-up.
  • If you have a septic system, call the Frederick County Health Department (301-600-1726) for advice about possible causes and solutions.
  • Much of the equipment for cleaning and drying out can be rented locally.
  • Establish temperature control to enhance the evaporation rate and effectiveness of ventilation or dehumidification systems in use.
  • All solid waste must be collected and discarded.
  • Use dehumidifiers, fans, window air conditioners and open windows to aid in the drying process when available. Exchange humid air in the area with less humid air from other sources. Whole house air conditioners or furnace blowers should be used only if standing wastewater did not get into the air ducts.
  • Remove vinyl covered wallpaper in affected areas, as it slows the drying process.

3. Discard & Disinfect

Discard all:

  • Cardboard
  • Carpets&carpet pads
  • Cosmetics
  • Food
  • Mattresses & pillows
  • Medicines & medicalsupplies
  • Stuffed animals & toys
  • Unfinished furniture
  • Upholstered furniture
  • If you can see a water line or stain on wallboard or paneling from the sewage back-up, the material should be cut out up to several inches above the water line and replaced.


  • Wash the affected area with detergent solution to remove surface dirt and contamination. Don’t skip this step, or the disinfection step will be ineffective! Allow it to air-dry.
  • Apply a disinfectant labeled as being bactericidal (kills bacteria) or a solution of 1 part bleach + 9 parts water. Disinfectants and/or bleach should remain in contact with the items for 15-20 minutes to be effective. Allow it to air-dry.