Protect Your Home from Water Damage

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Did you know, water damage is more likely to occur in your home than fire damage? We protect our homes from catastrophes, but water damage could be just as dangerous.

Plumbing leaks are common anywhere there is running water, such as:

  • Toilets
  • Faucets/Sinks
  • Dishwashers
  • Ice makers
  • Water heaters
  • Tubs/showers
  • Washing machines
  • Internal pipes and hoses

Water damage isn’t only a problem financially; it can lead to serious health risks from chemicals, toxins and mold, such as rashes, asthma or other chronic health conditions. Additionally, recent studies have shown that children with prolonged exposure to water damaged rooms in their home are at a higher risk of developing eczema.

Whether from a slow leak or flooded basement, water damage can be devastating, but there are things that a homeowner can do to mitigate or minimize the extent of the damage.

  • Check for leaks or cracks in hoses that run to the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator at least once a year and replace these hoses every five to seven years.
  • Be sure the caulking around tubs and showers is free of cracks.
  • Know where your water main is located and how to shut it off.
  • Install floor pans under appliances to prevent damage from slow, undetected leaks.
  • Use water leak alarms, which will alert you to a leak in basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and sump pumps.
  • Buy a water flow monitoring system, which attaches to your water main and, if flow that exceeds normal use is detected, will automatically shut off the flow of water into your home.

What’s that smell?

Bad Smell!!

Have you ever walked past a sewer pipe that smelled like rotten eggs? While there probably isn’t a rotting egg in the pipe, hydrogen sulfide could be present, which can be very corrosive for sewer lines. In addition to a rotten egg smell, high levels of hydrogen sulfide could also smell musty or swampy.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable and highly toxic gas known for its pungent rotten egg odor. Many might recall the scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when grandpa lights a cigar and drops the match by the storm sewer.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water and volcanoes, as well as oil and gas wells. Because of their density, low-lying and enclosed spaces are attractive to hydrogen sulfide, which makes confined spaces (such as pipes) very dangerous. Prolonged exposure to hydrogen sulfide, even at low levels, poses dangerous health risks – ranging from headaches, eye irritation, loss of consciousness and the inability to smell to death.

A simple chemical test can help determine the levels of hydrogen sulfide to which you are exposed and can be obtained at most home improvement stores, from a local plumber or the health department. If water lines contain excessive hydrogen sulfide, a homeowner has three options for rectifying the situation:

  • Find an alternative water supply, such as drilling a new well or contacting your local water authority.
  • Purchase bottled water to use for food preparation and drinking; however, this is not a cost-effective measure.
  • Remove the impurity. There are numerous treatment options available, which will be determined by the levels of chemical impurities in the water, the possibility of bacterial contamination and the volume of water.

The best advice is to let a professional handle any kind of chemical contamination because they have the tools and knowledge to do the job right and protect your health and wellbeing.

 

 

Myths Busted! Water and sewer lines never break

Repair water pipe

A common myth is that water and sewer lines never break. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind – because the service lines usually lie underground and buried beneath our homes, we don’t think about them. Yet, more than 850 water main breaks occur in North America every day according to www.watermainbreakclock.com!  It is only when the water or sewer line fails (clogs, leaks or breaks) that we give them any thought. Often the pipes or lines for which homeowners are responsible are generally believed to last for 40, 50 or even 60 years.  Many factors contribute to the useful lifetime of a homeowner’s water and sewer pipes or service lines, some of which include the material from which the lines are made, the weather and soil conditions.

What causes water and sewer lines to fail?
Root Intrusion
Do you often admire the saplings the former property owner planted some 40 years ago? The roots of those now full-grown trees stretch deep into the ground and could very well be permeating the small cracks in your service lines that are as old or older. The roots grow in the direction of the water source to thrive and, once a small opening in the service line is found, will begin to penetrate the line. Roots invading sewer lines could cause clogs and result in raw sewage seeping into the yard, not to mention an unpleasant odor and soil contamination.

Ground Shifting
As a result of ground movement or shifting, water and sewer line joints may become loosened or dislodged, often causing the pipes to crack, misalign or collapse. Once this happens, it becomes an easy entry point for clay and debris, which will eventually cause the line to clog.

Especially susceptible to shifting are the areas where earthquakes occurs. The shifts can be of such magnitude that damages to the public water and sewer lines could hamper the delivery of fresh, clean water to communities for several days.

Weather
We’ve experienced some extreme fluctuations in temperature, drought conditions and record amounts of rain and snowfall during the past few years. These extremes can cause water and sewer line corrosion and accelerated soil erosion, which affects the quality of the lines. A slight change of only a few degrees in air or water temperatures can cause significant stress on service lines. For example, water temperatures below 4 degrees can cause the pipes to become brittle and air temperatures at or below 0 degrees cause the ground above it to freeze, thereby increasing stress on the line.

The bottom line – water and sewer lines can and will break.

 

21st Century Television Discusses Service Line Warranty

Trump Video Screen ShotService Line Warranties of Canada’s parent company, Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP), was delighted to be featured August 17 on Bloomberg Television (as paid programming) when USP Chief Executive Officer Philip E. Riley, Jr. discussed the Service Line Warranty Program available in the United States and Canada with special guest host Donald Trump, Jr.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting homeowner infrastructure and providing an affordable solution for protection,” said Riley. “Every day water and sewer lines are failing and we can help.”

Water and sewer lines are part of an aging infrastructure issue that is being addressed in many cities. Private lines, subjected to the same elements that cause public lines to fail, are the responsibility of homeowners. While cities and utilities are repairing and replacing the water and sewer lines that comprise the public infrastructure, costs for maintenance of the lines on a homeowner’s property come out of the homeowner’s pocket. USP works with cities to offer homeowners affordable utility line repair protection that covers the high cost of line repair and replacement while also protecting the environment.Homeowners will recognize the program under the brand name, Service Line Warranties of Canada, USP’s consumer division.

As 21st Century Television Vice President of Programming J.L. Haber expresses, “For cities, critical utility systems can end up being a major expense. When we heard about how Utility Service Partners works to provide low cost warranties to cover repairs to these utility lines when something goes wrong, we had to get them on the show to spread the information.”

Those interested in learning more about how Utility Service Partners helps cities and homeowners can watch the entire interview online.

About 21st Century Television – 21st Century Television is an award-winning business and health program that is independently produced by MMP (USA), Inc. The show provides its viewers an in-depth opportunity to find solutions to industry problems from some of the top business leaders from across the world. With more than 5,000 companies participating on more than 500 shows, 21st Century Television continues to be the premier and targeted outlet for the latest business and health stories. 21st Century Television airs on cable networks available to more than 100 million television households.

 

About Utility Service Partners – Founded in 2003, Utility Service Partners, Inc. strives to be the leading provider of solutions to North American municipal and utility clients by delivering quality programs that bring value to both the client and their residents. Operating under the consumer brand Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), USP and SLWA are committed to addressing aging infrastructure across the nation through public-private partnerships.

Sewer backups could lead to health problems

Ill man with a feverRaw sewage left untreated contains a variety of pathogens, chemicals and nutrients – many of which pose a serious health risk. Additionally, research shows billions of gallons of raw sewage flow into waterways every day, putting the health of millions of people at risk.

When sewage backs up into the home, the overflow leaves behind germs on the surfaces with which it’s been in contact. The degree of danger depends on how long the sewage was in contact with a surface, the type of materials contaminated by sewage and how long the occupant was exposed to the sewage. Left untreated, exposure to sewage could leave you with gastrointestinal (GI) distress, hepatitis, skin rashes or infections. In extreme cases, sewage can also contain rat urine, which could lead to Weil Disease – which can result in liver and kidney damage if not treated and can be fatal.

While sewage germs are rarely airborne, in an emergency it’s important to seal off any backups until a professional can rectify the situation. If you must handle raw sewage to clean, always use protection, including rubber gloves, eyewear, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. If available, a breathing apparatus is highly recommended.

If you discover a backup, remember:

  • Contact your warranty service provider and/or a local professional about the situation.
  • If there is standing water near electrical appliances or outlets, turn off the power to that location.
  • Do not flush toilets or drain sinks. If you must continue using sinks, plug the drain or use a bucket until the drains have been cleared.
  • Keep children and pets away from the sewage.
  • Wash your hands immediately after coming into contact with raw sewage and never touch it without gloved hands.
  • If your home has a septic system, contact the local health department for advice on how to properly dispose of the water/sewage.
  • Contact a professional to clean up large jobs to ensure you eliminate the possibility of health risks.

Should you hire a professional cleaning company after a sewer backup?

woman mother cleaningSewer line breaks result in messes, which require cleanup. While many homeowners may roll up their sleeves to do the work themselves – you may consider hiring a professional cleaning agency that has the appropriate tools and necessary experience. The decision is one of personal choice that involves time, money and the extent to which a homeowner is willing to risk exposure to the health hazards.

While homeowner’s policies don’t cover repairs to a broken or leaking sewer pipe, some might cover the cleanup, so read your policy or call your insurance representative to determine coverage. If your homeowner’s policy provides coverage, it’s highly recommended that a professional restoration service be used. After assessing the extent of the damage, make a list of what you can do yourself and what you may want a professional to handle. This should include a minimum of replacing floor coverings and wallboards, checking the home’s foundation for cracks or splits and pitching any ruined materials or sending them out for professional cleaning. Sewage may have possibly contaminated your heating and air conditioning unit and duct work, so have it professionally serviced.

If you plan to do it yourself, experts suggest investing in professional cleaning gear to protect yourself from bacteria. This includes protective eyewear, gloves, boots, pants and long-sleeved shirts. Be sure to wear goggles and, if possible, a face mask when hosing off items to protect from back splashing. Remember to never touch contaminated materials with your bare hands and always wash your hands thoroughly after cleanup.

Here are a few tips for cleaning up sewage:

  • Dry the space out, removing all water with a sump pump, wet vac or bucket. Many of these items and more can be rented locally.
  • Control the temperature to improve the evaporation rate and ventilation.
  • Collect and discard properly of all solid waste. Contact your local Health Department for instructions on discarding.
  • Discard carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture. Wallboards or paneling with water stains should be cut above the water line and replaced. Generally, all porous materials contaminated by sewage should be discarded – such as cardboard boxes, paper items, books, magazines, mattresses, pillows, stuffed animals and anything else difficult to clean. Clothing may be salvageable if laundered professionally.
  • Wash all contaminated areas with a detergent solution and apply a disinfectant (anti-bacterial) or a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Disinfectants and/or bleach should be in contact with the items for 15 minutes or more to be effective and then allowed to air dry.

Whenever sewer backups happen, because of the health risks, it’s best to contact a professional restoration company for cleanup to ensure your home returns to its original state.

Don’t contaminate your drinking water when it rains

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Many cities use treated water from lakes and streams to provide fresh drinking water to their communities. However, many communities could be unintentionally contaminating their drinking water each time it rains.

Stormwater drains (not sewer systems) help return rainwater to nearby lakes, streams and treatment systems; however, there is risk of pollutants, trash and sediment being carried underground. While these drains keep the public safe from rainwater flooding and potential hydroplaning, keep in mind that stormwater runs into other bodies of water.

Storm drains are for rain – not dumping household products that you wouldn’t otherwise pour down a drain in your home. As a homeowner, you can help prevent dangerous pollutants from entering storm drains.

  • Clean up pet waste. Pet waste left on the ground could wash into the storm drains.
  • Never apply pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides to foliage and plants before it rains. Rain doesn’t help soil absorb chemicals; it washes them away. Also, consider using non-toxic or organic alternatives.
  • If possible, drain pools (even kiddy pools) into the sanitary sewer system where the water can be treated.
  • Dispose of chemicals properly instead of dumping them on the ground or in a storm drain.
  • Chemical spill? Don’t rinse it with the hose. Use absorbent materials like kitty litter, which can be swept and disposed of properly.
  • Take your car to the car wash so soap doesn’t leak into the storm drains. Many car washes recycle their water, so you’ll be conserving water, too. If you must wash your car at home, consider using biodegradable soap.

For more information about storm water pollution, visit the Environment Canada website.