Modern-day municipal sewage or sanitation systems, as well as septic systems, have proven invaluable in enhancing the lives and protecting the health of people from all walks of life. With that said, sewage systems – from a residential toilet to a water treatment facility – are not foolproof. Problems can occur, including situations that can result in system malfunctions or breakdowns that result in sewage runoff into homes and business. This runoff can be comprised of what is known as black water. You need to have a working understanding of the dangers and health risks associated with black water.

What Is Black Water?

Some things in like are utterly unpleasant. Fair warning – such is the case when it comes to a working definition of blackwater. Black water occurs when certain types of human wastes combine. This includes urine and feces as primary components of black water. However, it can also include traces of blood and other biological matter. The combination of these waste materials creates a darkened liquid that can flow into a residence, business, or other structure in the event of some sort of sewage system malfunction, including something as basic as a pipe leak in a home. Flooding can also result in the infiltration of black water into a home, business, or other building.

“Black Water” Is Something of a Misnomer

When it comes to contaminated sewage water in your home or business, you cannot merely look for water that appears black. The reality is that the term “black water” is something of a misnomer. This type of contaminated water can appear black in some, but not all, instances. Black water can also present as brown, gray, green, or even as water with just a tint of darkening. With that noted, these are a fairly well-accepted guideline that the darker the water (the blacker the water) the contaminates that water contains.

Health Risks of Black Water

Black water is highly hazardous to your health. Black water can contain harmful bacteria that include:

Both of these bacteria can cause serious illness arising in an infected person’s digestive system. In addition to these harmful bacteria, black water can contain microorganisms, including parasites that have the ability to lodge in a person’s body.

Black water is also capable of carrying fungi spores. As a consequence, different forms of toxic mold can end up growing in a residence or business that was infiltrated by black water.

Bacteria that can be found in black water is capable of releasing what are known as endotoxins. These airborne toxins can cause a person exposed to them to become afflicted with long-term respiratory illnesses. In addition, toxic mold particles and spores can become airborne when a mold growth itself is disturbed. It takes very little to disturb a mold growth. A disturbance that causes the release of dangerous airborne particulates includes even something as slight as a brief puff of air.

The bottom line: Exposure to black water can result in very serious and even debilitating illness that requires an extended recovery period. In isolated instances, exposure to black water ultimately can prove fatal. Typically, this occurs if a person is very young, rather old, or suffering from a compromised immune system.

Black Water Misconceptions

The most common misconception about black water is that you can clean it up on your own with the tools and resources you already have in your home. In other words, if you think you mop up black water, you are incorrect. Safe, effective black water cleanup necessitates:

  • Special training
  • Experience in this type of biohazard remediation
  • Specialized cleaning and sanitization agents
  • Specialized equipment
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment

Black Water Cleanup

In the final analysis, the wise course of action following a black water infestation in your home or business is to engage the services of a sewage cleanup professional, a specialist with a specific background in black water biohazard remediation. A sewage cleanup company, also known as a biohazard remediation service, has the training and background necessary to ensure that all aspects of a black water contamination fully are eradicated.

A professional utilizes biohazard personal protective equipment, the same type of equipment you would have to locate and use if you were to attempt a black water or sewage cleanup on your own. This equipment includes:

  • Respirator or HEPA mask
  • Protective eyewear
  • Uniform or smock
  • Gloves

A thorough black water cleanup includes:

  • Removal of black water and biohazardous waste contained in it
  • Thorough cleaning and scrubbing or all areas and items contaminated by black water
  • Sanitization of contaminated areas and items (with medical-grade sanitizing agents)
  • Deodorization of the premises

The ultimate objective of black water or sewage cleanup (or biohazard remediation) is to restore a home to a fully safe and livable condition or to return a business to a completely usable status. Health and livability demand that no evidence or trace of the black water contamination lingers when the biohazard remediation process is completed.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.