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in Decatur Illinois Since 1957

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A close-up image of raw sewage in a residential bathtub that required professional plumbing repair services in Decatur, IL.

Health Issues Associated with Sewage Exposure

What is Sewage?

Sewage (wastewater) is categorized as gray water or black water by local water treatment coordinators. Gray water comes from dishwashers, baths/showers, and washing machines. Blackwater only comes from kitchen sinks and toilets. Whether you flush your toilet or wash dishes in the kitchen sink, all wastewater is carried away from your home via a sewer line. Depending on the type of plumbing system a home or commercial building uses – sewage either flows to a wastewater treatment facility or a nearby septic system. However, if your sewage system isn’t working properly, you need to consider the health risks of sewage exposure if the issue isn’t fixed in a timely manner.

4 Health Risks of Sewage Exposure

Skin contact with raw sewage or simply inhaling sewage fumes may cause serious health problems ranging from systemic viral infections to bacterial skin infections. The best way to keep your family safe from the harmful effects of sewage exposure is by having regular septic maintenance or plumbing maintenance performed on your home’s sewage system.

Common diseases promoted by sewage exposure include:

A generated image of E. Coli bacteria that was caused due to exposure to raw sewage in Decatur, IL.

Escherichia Coli

E. coli are a group of bacteria that live in the intestines of animals and people. However, the E. coli populating the intestines are actually beneficial to our health. Certain E. coli can cause uncontrollable diarrhea, vomiting, life-threatening dehydration, pneumonia, and other severe bacterial illnesses.


Giardia is a parasitic infection characterized by watery diarrhea, painful stomach cramps, nausea, and rapid weight loss. It’s also a common waterborne disease in the U.S. Microscopic Giardia parasites live in ponds, lakes, dirty bodies of water but especially thrive in raw sewage.


A viral infection targeting the gastrointestinal system, gastroenteritis produces symptoms similar to Giardia but they are more severe and often require emergency treatment. Excessive vomiting, diarrhea, constant nausea, and abdominal pain are signs of a gastroenteritis infection.

Hepatitis A

Exposure to black water sewage presents a high risk for developing hepatitis A, a viral disease spread via infected fecal matter or blood. Nausea and vomiting, fever, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin are symptoms of hepatitis A.

A broken kitchen drain that caused sewage to back up into a residential sink in Decatur, IL.

How is Exposure to Sewage Possible?

An overflowing septic tank or broken pipes leaking sewage into the ground can leave you and your family exposed to infectious airborne pathogens. Toilets that overflow frequently due to a full septic tank are another common reason why people get sick from exposure to sewage.

It’s easier to understand how skin contact with contaminated sewage may allow infectious material to enter through the skin and reach the bloodstream. But what happens when you inhale sewage fumes?

Vaporous chemicals such as methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen are what give sewage that rotten egg smell. Breathing in these chemicals pushes oxygen out of your lungs and bloodstream. Signs of sewer gas poisoning resemble signs of oxygen depletion: dizziness, headache, confusion, and, eventually, unconsciousness.

Septic Installation and Septic Repair in Decatur, IL

Riley’s Decatur Sewer Service has been providing superior plumbing and septic system maintenance, installation, and repair for over 50 years. 24/7 emergency plumbing repair is also available. When the worst that can happen does happen, contact Riley’s or call (217) 428-3066 for prompt, friendly service!

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