How to Prevent and Respond to Sewer Backups in Your Business

Commercial operations come to an immediate standstill when sewer water floods the property. Health risks for employees and customers suddenly and dangerously loom. Property undergoes damage and requires significant financial investments to replace. Cautious business owners can take steps to prevent sewer backups and respond prudently in the event a backup occurs.

Causes of Sewer Backups

Sewers can back up for many reasons. The lush green trees and shrubbery that lend a pleasing aesthetic appearance to your business lawn can also grow relentless roots that tightly wrap around or break service pipes. The result is a nasty blockage in the sewer and eventual backups.

  • Common structural flaws, such as misaligned pipes, sags, pipe collapses and holes, are among the several additional causes of sewer line problems.
  • Flushing solid objects down a drain almost guarantees a block in the sewer pipes. Customers or employees may send sanitary napkins, trash and other inappropriate debris down the drain, causing a sewer pipe block.
  • Nature’s rainstorms can lead to a sewer backup. A sewer system’s inadequate capacity becomes evident when heavy rains fill up the sewer lines more quickly than they drain.

Dangers of Raw Sewage

sewage backupSewer water releases toxic gases, including methane, chlorine, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Employees and customers who are exposed to these noxious fumes can experience serious health issues. The lack of oxygen in these gases cause disorientation in the people and animals who breathe the vapors.

Lethal gases are not the only inherent danger of sewer water. Dangerous bacteria, from E. coli to salmonella to hepatitis, abundantly teem in sewage water. Organisms known to cause disease silently lurk in raw sewage. Pinworms, rotavirus and shigella are just a handful of the many organisms that can provoke serious illnesses, sending employees and customers to the emergency room.

Urgency Required

Business owners should respond quickly to sewer backups. Contact a plumber and water damage restoration service as soon as possible, and take the following actions:

  • All individuals, including employees and business managers, must wash their hands thoroughly with soapy water if they come in contact with the flooded environment.
  • Discard any office furniture, rugs, carpets or fabric items that have come into contact with the sewage water. Contaminated materials are extremely dangerous and cannot safely be reused. In fact, take extra precautions and label the items as “contaminated” to ensure no one who attempts to salvage the furniture risks their health.

Sewer Backup Prevention

Property owners can establish safeguards to deter potential sewer backups. Installing a functional sump pump will extract excess water from the commercial property. The sump pump should be tested regularly to ensure it functions under demanding conditions.

  • Check the building’s foundation for cracks and, if any are visible, appropriately seal them.
  • Toilets, sinks and other plumbing fixtures that are susceptible to backups should be removed from infrequently inhabited areas, like the building’s basement.
  • Inspect the sewer and plumbing lines at least once annually.
  • Install a sewer check valve. Such valves work dutifully during a flash storm, for instance, but perform less ideally when the city sewer line undergoes a blockage for an extended period of time. Every six months, inspect the check valve.
  • Professionally install a sewer flood gate valve. As an automatic sewer valve, it brings 100 percent of backwater to a halt. The sewer flood gate valves operate using air pressure instead of electricity and serve as an enduring solution to sewer backups. Installing a sewer flood gate valve is one of the most expensive options, as installation requires the professional expertise of a technical crew.
  • In office settings, flushing items that are too large for the sewer pipe to handle will ensure the water from the sewer will back up. Place signs to warn employees and customers to not throw trash down the toilet or into the sink drains.

Property Insurance Policies

how to handle insurance claimsSewer backups are normally excluded in commercial property insurance policies. Losses that occur due to water discharges from the sewer, drain or sump pump are not eligible for compensation.

Insurance Services Office (ISO) endorsements, however, may be utilized to cover physical losses caused by sewer backups. Property insurance policies can include coverage for business interruptions, such as if your business shuts down in order to clean up the sewage backup.

Plenty of exclusions exist in sewer backup endorsements. Poor maintenance nulls coverage. For instance, your losses are not covered if sewer backup damages result from failure to remove the growing tree roots near the sewer line. Power outages that result in sewer backups are also excluded. If the business’ sump pump fails during a power cut and losses are incurred, the insurance will not cover the damages. However, if your policy includes utility interruption coverage, you can rest assured, as your policy will take care of the losses.

Business owners are responsible for the cost of repairs to the sump pump, sewer or drain, as such fixes are excluded in property policies.

Professional Flood Damage Cleanup

When the sewer unexpectedly heaves raw sewage into your business environment, contact a professional water damage restoration service immediately. ServiceMaster DAK offers a swift response to all water damage restoration emergencies. Our experienced technicians arrive at your place of business promptly and begin work to extract the excess water from the premises.

Handling a sewage backup is dangerous, given the water is contaminated with harmful bacteria and toxins. ServiceMaster DAK technicians are trained to safely and expertly handle the polluted waters. After the sewage water is thoroughly removed, we begin a sanitization process to ensure your business environment is safe for you, your employees and your customers to inhabit once again.

ServiceMaster DAK understands that every minute your business is shut down due to a sewage backup, financial losses are incurred. A quick response time is a priority at ServiceMaster DAK. We proudly serve the North Shore and Northwest suburbs of the city of Chicago 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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