What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part Two)

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part Two)
Part One of this article explained what Category 3 Water is. This final installment will explain why you should be concerned and how to minimize the risks.
The most common bacteria found in sewage are:
1. E. Coli;
2. Acanthamoeba;
3. Salmonella;
4. Helicobacter pylori;
5. Leptospira;
6. Cryptosporidium;
7. Giardia;
8. Hepatitis A Virus;
9. Clostridium Tetani; and
10. Adenoviridae
According to the National Resources Defense Council nearly 2 million cases of illnesses are caused by sewage contamination each year.
Exposure to sewage or its products may result in a number of illnesses including:
1. Gastroenteritis, characterised by cramping stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting caused by e.coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. Exposure to Helicobacter pylori is also linked to other stomach ailments including ulcers.
2. Weil’s disease also known as Leptospirosis which is a flu-like illness with persistent and severe headache, vomitting, and muscle aches. This disease is commonly caused by exposure to water contaminated with animal urine. Complications from this disease include damage to the liver, kidneys, and blood meaning this condition can cause death.
3. Hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus and is characterised by inflammation of the liver, and jaundice.
4. Acute respiratory illnesses caused by the adenoviruses, resulting in attacks of breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing, pneumonia, croup and bronchitis.
5. Infections of skin, eyes, nose, throat and ears.
6. Tetanus, a medical condition that affects the nervous system and is characterised by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibres; caused by a clostridium tetani. This is the reason we get tetanus shots.
First, it is important to understand how the micro-organisms enter the body: direct contact, ie touching your mouth with contaminated hands and/or breathing in contaminated dust and air and/or exposing your skin, particularly if you have open cuts.
For this reason, it is imperative that you wear protective clothing, rubber boots, gloves, and use eye and respiratory protection.
You do not want to expose your skin, particularly if you have wounds or cuts.
It is also critical that you do not inadvertently touch your mouth, eyes, or nose with contaminated hands or gloves.
With this understanding of the risks and the precautions you need to take, when you are in a flood situation, it is important to realize that disaster restoration companies have specialized equipment and experience to deal with clean up. Hire professionals to do the clean up as opposed to doing it yourself to save yourself from potential sickness and long term health issues.
As stated by the IICRC:
Most household microorganisms (fungi, bacteria) typically require five conditions for germination, growth, amplification and dissemination. Generally, they include:
• organic food source, especially cellulose (e.g., paper, wood), which are found in abundance in construction materials
• moisture, even high humidity (67% RH plus)
• moderate temperature – 68-86°F/20-30°C
• stagnant air
• time – several hours to several days
Anything that can be done to control or minimize these optimum conditions will prolong the time required for microbial growth.
In short, when your property is flooded, time is critical to minimizing the magnitude of the concerns caused by Category 3 Water.
Once your property is professionally cleaned, will the risks caused by Category 3 Water still be an issue?
The answer, of course, is YES!
The only way to be completely sure if your property has been remediated properly is to hire a Third Party Environmental consultant who performs a Post-Remediation Verification to determine whether or not the air quality is at normal, healthy levels.
In addition, it is also important that the consultant takes swab samples of the flooded areas that can be sent to a lab to test for levels of bacteria caused by sewage.
The only way to have true piece of mind after your home is remediated is to make sure that this Third Party Verification and Sewage Swab Sampling is done. Unless this is done, you will not have any certainty that the restoration company you hired has completely mitigated the health concerns caused by Category 3 Water.
If you have any questions about Category 3 Water or have concerns about a recently remediated property, Got Mold? recommends that you contact an IICRC accredited restoration company who understands the risks. We are IICRC accredited and here to help, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part One)

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part One)
According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), Category 3 Water is:
That which is highly contaminated and could cause death or serious illness if consumed by humans. Examples: sewage, rising flood water from rivers and streams, ground surface water flowing horizontally into homes.
In layman’s terms, Category 3 Water is water contaminated by sewage and fecal matter.
During our years of business, Got Mold? has encountered Category 3 Water on numerous occasions.
Recently, we mitigated the risks from Category 3 Water in Calgary and High River, two areas of Alberta that experienced significant damages from the flood.

Calgary 2013 Pump Trucks

In Calgary, we worked on two large scale projects that had extensive issues with Category 3 Water. During my short stay in Calgary, I had the opportunity to visit the projects and it was clear, just from the smell in the air, that the area was saturated with pathogens and fecal matter.

High River Volunteers

The devastation in High River we witnessed was even more extensive particularly because whole sections of the town were cordoned off from residents for safety reasons. Category 3 Water was just one of the concerns we encountered.

Hidden Valley 10

Just recently, Got Mold? was asked to perform sewage sampling in Hidden Valley, Alberta, and the subsequent lab results have proven positive for contamination. In particular, the lab results proved positive for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococci (a subgroup of Streptococci) are commonly used as indicator bacteria for fecal/sewage contamination. These test results will hopefully help these residents in their insurance claims to recover some of the costs from the damage.
What potential bacteria and viruses are carried by Category 3 Water?
What sicknesses and diseases are caused by these bacteria and viruses?
How can you minimize your risks of getting sick?
Part Two will answer these questions…stay tuned!

Got Mold? in Hidden Valley, Alberta

Got Mold? in Hidden Valley, Alberta
On Friday, a Got Mold? team led by our founder, James C. Watson, traveled to Hidden Valley, Alberta to take swab samples for many residents who feel abandoned by the Alberta government.
One of the goals of this action is to establish whether or not sewage backups caused the flooding damage.
Below are some pictures taken during the day

Hidden Valley 1

Hidden Valley 2

Hidden Valley 3

Hidden Valley 4

Hidden Valley 5

Hidden Valley 6

Hidden Valley 7

Hidden Valley 8

Hidden Valley 9

Hidden Valley 10

Got Mold? in High River, Alberta

Got Mold? in High River, Alberta
In response to the tragic flooding situation in High River, Alberta, our founder and President, James C. Watson, personally visited the area.

High River flood

Needless to say, the response to his arrival from residents was very positive as they realized that Got Mold? was there to help.
Currently, we have a team of workers in the area helping residents. The response to our presence has been so positive that the High River Times ran a story. According to Watson, one of our main goals is:
To make sure that if there’s concerns about mold in the house that we want to do our quality testing for them to approve that they haven’t contaminated the rest of the home

High River flood 2

In Watson’s words, it’s not about killing mold, but about properly filtering it and removing it from the air so that it’s not in the environment.
The key to preventing mold is to begin the drying process as soon as possible because mold will begin growing within 24 to 72 hours. Water is the key ingredient required for mold to thrive.
According to Watson, the residents of High River have done a fantastic job of reducing mold risk because they began the clean up process right away. However, he cautions that clean up crews should take precautions to prevent health issues by using half masks with filter cartridges and avoid skin contact by wearing gloves.

High River Volunteers

Mold is a growing concern because it will have an impact on the health and well-being of residents and also cause structural issues because mold lives on dead organic matter: drywall, carpet, wood, ceiling tiles, etc.

High River mold

According to Watson, over the next couple of days as the drywall starts to dry, the mold starts to thrive, and if it’s not dealt with it continues to eat away at the house. Even if it doesn’t affect one’s health, it’s going to affect the structural integrity of the house.

Calgary Crews Continue to Work on Canada Day!

Calgary Crews Continue to Work on Canada Day!
Today is Canada Day, a national holiday. Despite this, we have crews working at our projects in Calgary. Good news for the residents affected by the flood. We are committed to cleaning up. In the words of our founder and President, James C. Watson:
It feels great to be out helping flood victims in mass volumes. We have built a great team of professionals and are taking on some very serious business with three projects ranging from 12,000 – 30,000 square foot buildings that have had severe sewer backup and water damage. We have pump trucks available, portable lighting, dehumidifiers, generators, bob cats, tear out crew, sampling specialists to perform post remediation verification of work performed by other companies etc. Our trucks and trailers are getting some serious attention, we have received calls from and approached by people in Calgary that haven’t even been affected by the flood yet they have a mold concern they would like us to look at.

Calgary Crews Continue Work on Canada Day

At the same time, Watson expresses his concerns about toxins in the air, particularly for volunteers:
It is so great to see all of the volunteers but at the same time I am concerned because they have no idea of the risk they are putting themselves into with mold, asbestos, lead paint, PCB’s and more. It scares me to think of all the asbestos floating around downtown with all the tear out being performed by volunteers that are not aware of the risks.
Watson’s concerns are valid. Recently there have been several news articles, expressing similar concerns and cautioning residents:
Managing Mould Risk Following the Southern Alberta Floods: The extent of flooding in Southern Alberta has created conditions where widespread mould contamination is inevitable. Any structure or material that has been wet for more than 48 hours can potentially be impacted by mould.
Take care of your home, health: Mould loves damp. So there is no doubt it will love Calgary’s flooded homes and businesses. Airborne mould can cause chest tightening and coughing and can trigger an asthma attack. More severe reactions are rare. Symptoms generally disappear once mould is removed.
Asbestos Info For Home Owners: Alberta Health Services is warning home owners affected by the floods to be on the lookout for asbestos related materials including drywall mud, insulation and floor and ceiling tiles.
Reducing the risk of asbestos exposure: Alberta Health Services is warning homeowners in flood-affected areas to be cautious during the cleanup and to make sure that they handle and dispose of asbestos properly. The AHS says houses built before the mid-1980s may contain asbestos materials in drywall mud, ceiling tiles, insulation and floor tiles. Homeowners should contact an environmental consultant to assess the property for asbestos and then hire a qualified contractor to remove it. The AHS says hiring professionals is the best method as the contractors wear specialized personal protective equipment and have expert knowledge and techniques to avoid exposure. For those people who decide to remove flood-damaged materials on their own they should be sure to take actions to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. Health officials say the risks are greatest when asbestos particles are inhaled so people should avoid breaking materials that may contain it. They also recommend that people avoid using power tools or any abrasive materials, like sanders, on items that may contain asbestos.
Important tips for staying safe from disease in wake of flood damages: It’s important to avoid disease and play it safe when returning to flooded areas, Alberta Health Services advises. “Floodwaters can carry disease bacteria from raw sewage, which can lead to serious health problems if surfaces and furniture is not thoroughly cleaned and sterilized, and food disposed of,” said AHS in a press release.
Currently, I am in Calgary and look forward to the many meetings I have with other members of the team that have been so supportive and crucial in our quest to help clean up and make the city safer for its residents.
On a personal note, we want to express our thanks and appreciation to the residents of Calgary who have welcomed our crews and team into the city. The gifts of food, coffee, water, home baking, and other treats is very heart warming. Calgary is definitely a special place!