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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Archived Biohazard Blog Posts

The Reality of Sewage Leaks | SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island

3/15/2024 (Permalink)

sewage water pooling on a kitchen floor after a leak SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island is always ready to respond to your call when biohazard incidents strike.

Dealing with a sewage leak might be one of the worst things you ever have to do as a homeowner or business owner—or at least the stinkiest. A sewage leak might not leave behind as much damage as some other disasters, but it still ranks high on the never-want-to-live-through list for all of us.

Sewage leaks can be common, though, and they can happen to anyone, any time. Get to know how to react when things start getting a little messy, and you can be on the road to recovery in no time.

What to Do First

When wastewater can’t move through your pipes cleanly, it can start to back up, finding its way out through sinks, tubs and just about any other drain it can reach. Sewage leaks can also happen if a pipe or water line cracks or is otherwise damaged.

It doesn’t really matter where it comes from, sewage leaks are not something you should handle on your own. When water leaks into your home, it is classified into three different categories—white water, gray water or black water. While white and gray water come from sources that are considered generally clean and nontoxic, black water is toxic. Sewage leaks always fall into the black water category and are considered a biohazard. They contain viruses, bacteria and other microbes that can make you sick when you encounter them.

Stay away from the leak and turn the water off to your home to stop the flow as quickly as possible. If you have pets or children, block the area so they can’t get near it. Open windows all around the leak as well to help with the fumes. Call us right away, too—we can respond day or night to start your recovery.

Where SERVPRO® Comes In

From the moment you contact us, we will start gathering as much information as possible in order to send our team of trained experts to your home. We are trained and certified to handle any kind of biohazard cleanup quickly and effectively—and we have all the safety equipment and tools to do it.

Once you know our team is on the way, you can spend some time snapping photos of the leak. These may not be images you ever want to see again, but the more documentation you can provide to your insurance company, the easier the claim process will be. Photos can also help us find the origin of the leak in order to correct it.

Identifying the cause of the sewage leak will be one of the first steps we take when you get to your property. We will also immediately begin removing the water and sewage. Remember that sewage leaks are considered hazardous, so you will need to steer clear for a little while as we get everything cleaned up.

Cleaning after a sewage leak entails quite a few steps, many of which will be ongoing all at the same time. We will make sure things are deep-cleaned, sanitized and free of odors. Our crew can also handle any physical damage that the leak may have caused. We make it our goal to put everything back together so you can get back to life as normal quickly.

Finding a sewage leak in your home or office isn’t just stinky, it can also be a real health hazard. Take quick action to isolate the leak and call us right away. We can handle the cleanup so you never have to see the mess again.

Sewage leaks should always be cleaned up by professionals. Call SERVPRO, and we will take care of you.

Effective Vehicle Trauma Scene Cleaning—Key Steps

4/24/2018 (Permalink)

Gone are the days of the classic car find for a great deal. I remember the urban legends back in high school where you would hear that some lucky soul got a 1963 classic corvette that someone died in. The reason for the great deal was the lingering odor. Well those days are long gone now with the advancement of cleaning techniques that have been developed as well as an arsenal of deodorizing supplies and machines. Cleaning and decontaminating a trauma involved vehicle can be the equivalency of gingerly taking apart a 1000-piece puzzle, cleaning about 750 of the puzzle pieces and then putting it all back together as if nothing had ever happened.

Step one, no matter how simple the cleaning detail can be, if you are going to remove any hardware, disconnect the battery. Airbags have a hairy trigger finger. When you put together your assessment and game plan, it is wise to do your homework on each vehicle you process. Like any great boxer going into the ring, you must size up your opponent. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Know how many airbags are in the vehicle and their locations. Keep in mind the vehicle inventory of recalled Takata faulty airbags recall in your assessment and how easily they deploy. 

Those of us that have worked trauma scenes, know that blood and bodily fluids are like water; they travel the path of least resistance. Unlike in your typical home, a vehicle has more cracks, crevasses for fluids to make their way to and into.

If your services include trauma clean up of vehicles, it is best to have your own work shop or an office warehouse space before advertising these services. In most cases you can never bring enough tools and equipment with you. This creates a distraction for your client’s employees as well as their employees creating an additional hazard and liability to you. It is best to bring the patient to you, into your controlled environment.  Here at SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island, we do exactly that and have the experience, space and equipment to handle any size job.

Some vehicles can take a few days to properly forensically restore. You can never bring enough tools; some vehicles require specific tools for a specific make and or model made by the manufacture. So, it also important to make sure you have what is referred to as “Garage Keepers Insurance.” This is a distinctive coverage to protect you and the vehicle from damages, fire and theft should it occur. Your General Liability will not cover this type of loss.   

Once you have the vehicle secured in your warehouse and the battery is disconnected you will want to place it on rolling wheel dolly.

This will allow you the flexibility to move the vehicle with just one or two people.  You can also lock it into place.  This will also allow you to set up a large safety zone to roll the vehicle on top of.  Should it be necessary you can now easily erect a large containment barrier to create negative air flow with a HEPA system.    If you are dealing with a decomposition in a vehicle this makes it possible to roll the vehicle in and out of your warehouse as needed.

When disassembling the vehicle, a great tool to have in your warehouse is a large screen monitor hooked up to a laptop. YouTube is a great source to search and view how to disassemble any part from any vehicle. When you start your disassembly, you will have to photo document all your actions. You will thank yourself for when it comes time to reassemble everything. When you disassemble and clean each piece, keep them in a clean staging area. You will want to use one-gallon zip lockbags for all your smaller parts and mark each bag accordingly and tag all the larger pieces. When we dissemble a vehicle sometimes the auction house does not want it reassembled. However, you can create added value for your service for the auction house or body shop by placing the clean, carefully marked, tagged, and bagged up parts back in the vehicle. 

Any vehicle is ultimately a sponge. A sponge for fluids as well as a sponge for odor absorption. Wicking of fluids can occur on any soft surface. A problem our firm came across in 2010 after the economy crash was the closing of automotive plants. This created a problem for obtaining aftermarket and OEM parts to rebuild the interior. Sometimes automotive salvage yards could not locate the quality of a replacement part required. We then discovered the Esporta wash system. Our forensic operators would delicately disassemble seats and other soft interior pieces. We would then clean them and remove as much gross filth as possible to securely deliver the soft material to the Esporta Wash System. The average turnaround time for this process is less than a week and that parts are be shipped backed looking like new. The seats needing replacement foam would go to an upholstery shop to be reassembled by their professionals.  

You will need to look for every crack and crevasse, under every vent and possibly disassemble and clean wiring harnesses. You cannot remove the odor until you remove all the source. In this particular vehicle the battery is located under the passenger seat. While being loaded to be towed to our facility, the fluids that had puddled in the back seat have shifted into the battery well under the passenger seat.

Odor Removal

Should the opportunity allow weather wise, you will want to place the vehicle in the hot sun with the windows cracked to produce off gassing. In the evenings we will bring the vehicle inside and in a dark environment to introduce Chlorine Dioxide over night.

One of the most overlooked odor removal processes of a vehicle is the replacement of the cabin filter. Call you dealership to learn more. Not all vehicles have a cabin filter, and some have more than one.

Here at SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island, we have had great success in vehicle trauma cleaning.  We have all the latest cleaning and deodorizing equipment along with the training that helps in the success of a detailed cleaning such as this.  Please look to the experts at SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island should you need this or any other type of cleaning service.

PPE in the Restoration Industry

12/1/2017 (Permalink)

PPE in the Restoration Industry

The term PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, refers to protective clothing, respirators, goggles, hard hats, gloves, and other garments or equipment worn to protect an individual from injury and harm.

The history of PPE dates back to ancient times when soldiers would suit up for battle. One of the first large-scale PPE uses was in World War I, when PPE was used to protect soldiers from the chemical gases such as mustard gas. In the forensic restoration industry, PPE has evolved and will continue to change to be able to protect the operators in the field against microbial warfare.

Disposables have become an integral part of many industries today. They are everywhere from the local deli to the high-tech electronic clean rooms, and while industries use some of the same materials, there are many differences.

Identifying & Choosing Materials

There are four major types of nonwoven materials most common to the today’s industries: Tyvek, microporous film, SMS (Spun-bonded-Melt blown-Synthetic), and polypropylene.


Dupont founded Tyvek under the research efforts of William Hale Charch in 1944. Dupont scientists found a way to shred and process nylon fibers to create a form of synthetic paper. Still, it wasn’t until 1961 that Tyvek actually emerged on the market.


Polypropylene, a major nonwoven polymer in today’s market, was developed in 1954 by Guilio Natta. It was put into production in 1957 and there have been many improvements on polypropylene materials since its inception. Three of the modifications are with film coatings, PE coated polypropylene, microporous film, and SMS.

Microporous Film

Microporous film is a polypropylene membrane that is thermally laminated to a polypropylene nonwoven material. This was developed in 1987 through improved processing of polypropylene and came into the commercial market in 1993.


SMS is another derivative of polypropylene that is made up of three layers: two layers of polypropylene thermally bonded together with a thin poly membrane that is perforated.

Choosing and identifying the right materials can be difficult. These materials are used in several other industries and one of the largest users is the industrial safety sector. Their application is to protect the user from biological matter, blood, mold, asbestos, chemicals, and foreign substances getting on themselves or their clothing.

Best Options for Restoration Companies

For Non-Hazardous Jobs

Like many other companies, SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island, has several challenges when choosing the correct PPE for a restoration project. Most will use an SMS or polypropylene fabric in a lab coat, coverall, bouffant cap, shoe covers, sleeves, and masks. SMS gives good protection for fluid resistance and hold out while still achieving a breathable comfort level. Polypropylene is used in areas where protection is not critical, such as dusty or dirty areas free of hazardous materials. This is the most breathable and comfortable option.

SMS and polypropylene have varying filtration rates since the thickness of the material instead of the composition of the material determines the amount of protection. The average thickness of SMS ranges from 45 gsm (grams per square meter) to 55 gsm or 1.4 oz (ounce per square yard) to 1.8 oz. The filtration rate is 10 microns for a 55 gsm garment versus 30 microns for a 45 gsm garment. SMS will shed liquids for a period of time depending on the thickness of the material, but it is not a complete barrier. This makes SMS a very desirable material because it is breathable and will give adequate protection over a period of time. Polypropylene is the least protective of the materials and has a hold out range of 50 to 70 microns based on material weights of 45gsm to 30gsm or 1.4 oz to 1.0 oz. Many operators use polypropylene or SMS where there is minimal exposure within the work area for brief periods of time.

For Hazardous Jobs

When operator safety is especially critical, microporous film and Tyvek fabrics are the best route. Tyvek and microporous film materials will yield the highest particulate filtration efficiency. Tyvek will filter out dry particles up to 0.03 microns. The microporous film material has a barrier coating to allow for a low filtration rate at .01 microns, but lacks in comfort because it is not breathable. It works well in areas that are constantly wet and optimum protection is needed. Both of these materials will be hot to wear in most situations. When optimum protection is needed though, these materials work extremely well. With more precautions set forth for biological use, the sewn seams on these materials present a break in the barrier. There are versions of micropourus film that have sealed taped seams. Using Tychem SL and QC garments that have sealed taped seams allows for optimum protection.  SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island technicians have been extensively trained in the use of these suits before they are allowed to work on a hazardous project.

The Investment

Tyvek, since one company makes the material, is consistent in gsm weight, but microporous film, SMS, and polypropylene, vary in price by weight and size and there are many different manufactures/converters of these materials. These materials are non-wovens that are sold by weight as rolled goods and then converted to an isolation gown, lab coat, coverall, or shoe cover. This means the price of a 1.4 oz lab coat versus a 1.8 oz lab coat can vary in price by 20% and can vary even more depending on the size cut the garment has. The industrial sector usually wants the cheapest form of protection since it goes to their bottom dollar cost. The difference is a compromise in quality, weight of material, and durability can cost an operator their health or life. There are several ways to make sure you are getting what you need.

Microporous film is a complete barrier with the coating. It is meant as an alternative to Tyvek. Sizing and gsm weight is what affects the cost of this material. SMS and polypropylene weights can be looked at in several ways. First is comparing the thickness to another garment as well as weighing the garment itself. You can ask your supplier for the manufactures SDS sheets on the materials, which should always specify the weight of the material. The cut size and durability of the garment also reflect the quality. How does the garment hold up and does it fit right for the marked size of the garment? When ever you look at these materials in any form, lab coat, coverall, look at the stitching and the cut of the overall garment. You will be able to see many differences from one garment to another.

The decision to use one disposable or another option will ultimately come down to price, quality, application, and the end user. Choosing the right one can be difficult sometimes, but application and risk assessment is the best way to start. Once you know your options are compatible with the type of work you’ll be doing, you can compare the garment specifications from one product to the next and pricing to make a final purchase decision.

SERVPRO of East Brownsville & South Padre Island understands the importance and value PPE brings to our industry.  We spare no expense in making sure our technicians have the right protection, tools and knowledge before they tackle any type of hazardous project.