Tag Archives: flood

Flood Waters And Standing Water Can Be Hazardous

No matter how tempted you might be to wade or play in flood waters, don’t do it. Oftentimes, danger lurks within and beneath flood waters and standing water.

DHEC urges everyone not to use area streams, rivers or the ocean for drinking, bathing or swimming due to the possibility of bacteria, waste water or other contaminants. Avoid wading through standing water due to the possibility of sharp objects, power lines or other hazardous debris that might be under the surface.

Follow these steps if you come into contact with flood waters or standing waters:

  • Avoid or limit direct contact.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap, especially before drinking and eating.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water, or play with toys contaminated with flood water.
  • Report cuts or open wounds, and report all symptoms of illness. (Keep vaccinations current.)

Get more information on avoiding contact with flood waters from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Also, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s page on risks associated with flood waters and standing water.

Asbestos Removal and Safety for Homeowners after 2015 SC Floods

By Robin Mack, DHEC Asbestos Program Manager

When working on cleanup and rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster like the South Carolina floods of 2015, it is important to be aware of potential asbestos-containing materials that could pose a health risk if not handled properly. Disturbing materials made with asbestos during building repairs, renovations, or demolitions can release asbestos fibers or dust particles into the air allowing them to be ingested or inhaled.

Health Risks from Asbestos Exposure

People who are exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a time, such as contractors, and do not follow safety standards have an increased chance of experiencing harmful health effects. Asbestos can contribute to the development of lung cancer or other respiratory diseases. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop after being exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos in Homes

It is less common to find large quantities of asbestos in newer homes, but homes built before 1980 are the most likely to have asbestos containing materials.  Asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials, such as: siding, ceiling and floor tiles, stucco, sheetrock, joint compound, ceiling texture (popcorn ceiling), caulking, construction mastic, insulation, and roofing materials.

If you think your home contains asbestos, it is best to call a licensed professional to remove it. To find a list of licensed contractors that can perform asbestos abatement and demolition activities in South Carolina, click here.

Minimizing Asbestos Exposure
If homeowners decide to do work on their homes themselves or hire a non-licensed asbestos contractor, the following work practices and procedures should be followed to minimize possible airborne asbestos fiber releases and exposure:

  1. Keep the material wet at all times to help keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. A low pressure garden sprayer adjusted to “mist” works well.
  2. Avoid tearing, ripping, chipping, cutting, or grinding materials that may contain asbestos, such as those listed above. These actions increase the potential for asbestos fibers to be released.
  3. Do not throw or drop materials that may contain asbestos to the ground. Instead, lower them carefully to prevent breakage and release of fibers to the air.
  4. Please sort flood debris into categories according to the graphic below to help speed up the collection process. For any questions about debris pick-up or drop-off, please contact your local waste management program.
Graphic provided by SCDOT

Graphic provided by SCDOT

For more information about asbestos, click here or call (803) 898-4289.

Emotional Health After the Floods

By DHEC Communications Staff

emotional health

After a traumatic event, emotional and physical reactions are different for each person.  It is typical to react to a stressful event with increased anxiety, worry and anger.  Americans consistently demonstrate remarkable resilience in the aftermath of disasters and other traumatic events.

Connect with Friends and Family

Check in with family members and friends to find out how they are coping. Feeling stressed, sad, and upset are common reactions to life changing events. Recognize and pay attention to early warning signs of more serious distress. Your children, like you, will have reactions to this difficult situation; they too may feel fearful, angry, sad, worried, and confused. Children will benefit from your talking with them on their level about what is happening, to get your reassurance, and to let them know that you and they will be okay and that you will all get through this together.

Take Care of Yourself and Each Other

Getting support from others, taking care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs and getting some exercise can help to manage and alleviate stress.

When to Seek Help

Depending on the situation, some people may feel depressed, experience grief and anger, turn to alcohol or drugs and even think about hurting themselves or others. The signs of serious problems include:

  • excessive worry
  • crying frequently
  • an increase in irritability, anger, and frequent arguing
  • wanting to be alone most of the time
  • feeling anxious or fearful, overwhelmed by sadness, confused
  • having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating, and difficulty making decisions
  • increased alcohol and/or substance use
  • increased physical (aches, pains) complaints such as headaches
  • trouble with your “nerves”

If these signs and symptoms continue and interfere with daily functioning, it is important to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

Find Help

If you or someone you care about needs help, you should contact your health care provider to get connected with trained and caring professionals.  The number for the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Hotline is 1-800-985-5990, and it’s staffed 24 hours a day.  It is important to seek professional help if you need it.  For more information, please click here.

Have a Septic Tank and Not Sure What To Do After Flooding?

By DHEC Communications Staff
septic tank 1Whenever the water table is high or your sewage system is threatened by flooding, there is a risk that sewage will back up into your home. The only way to prevent this backup is to relieve pressure on the system by using it less.

Do I pump my tank during flooded or saturated drainfield conditions?

No! At best, pumping the tank is only a temporary solution. Under worst conditions, pumping it out could cause the tank to try to float out of the ground and may damage the inlet and outlet pipes. The best solution is to plug all drains in the basement and drastically reduce water use in the house.

What are some suggestions offered by experts for homeowners with flooded septic systems?

  • Locate any electrical or mechanical devices the system may have that could be flooded to avoid contact with them until they are dry and clean.
  • Do not dig into the tank or drainfield area while the soil is still wet or flooded. Try to avoid any work on or around the disposal field with heavy machinery while the soil is still wet. These activities will ruin the soil conductivity.
  • Prevent silt from entering septic systems that have pump chambers. When the pump chambers are flooded, silt has a tendency to settle in the chambers and will clog the drainfield if it is not removed.
  • Use common sense. If possible, don’t use the system if the soil is saturated and flooded. The wastewater will not be treated and will become a source of pollution. Conserve water as much as possible while the system restores itself and the water table falls.
  • Do not open the septic tank for pumping while the soil is still saturated. Mud and silt may enter the tank and end up in the drainfield. Furthermore, pumping out a tank that is in saturated soil may cause it to “pop out” of the ground. (Likewise, recently installed systems may “pop out” of the ground more readily than older systems because the soil has not had enough time to settle and compact.)
  • Flooding of the septic tank will have lifted the floating crust of fats and grease in the septic tank. Some of this scum may have floated and/or partially plugged the outlet tee. If the septic system backs up into the house check the tank first for outlet blockage. Clean up any floodwater in the house without dumping it into the sink or toilet and allow enough time for the water to recede. Floodwaters from the house that are passed through or pumped through the septic tank will cause higher flows through the system. This may cause solids to transfer from the septic tank to the drainfield and will cause clogging.
  • Aerobic plants, upflow filters, trickling filters, and other media filters have a tendency to clog due to mud and sediment. These systems will need to be washed and raked.

What if my septic system has been used to dispose wastewater from my business (either a home-based or small business)?

In addition to raw sewage, small businesses may use their septic system to dispose of wastewater containing chemicals. If your septic system that receives chemicals backs up into a basement or drainfield, take extra precautions to prevent skin, eye and inhalation contact. The proper clean-up depends of what chemicals are found in the wastewater. Contact DHEC or EPA for specific clean-up information.

What do I do with my septic system after the flood?

If your septic tank has overflowed, visible solids should be disinfected with lime and cleaned up.  Be sure to wash your hands throughly when finished.

Once floodwaters have receded, there are several things homeowners should remember:

  • Boil water before drinking until you have disinfected and tested your well.  Contact DHEC.
  • Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house.
  • Have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage. Signs of damage include settling or an inability to accept water. Most septic tanks are not damaged by flooding since they are below ground and completely covered. However, septic tanks and pump chambers can fill with silt and debris, and must be professionally cleaned. If the soil absorption field is clogged with silt, a new system may have to be installed.
  • Only trained specialists should clean or repair septic tanks because tanks may contain dangerous gases. Contact DHEC for a list of septic system contractors who work in your area.
  • If sewage has backed up into the basement, clean the area and disinfect the floor. Use a chlorine solution of a half cup of chlorine bleach to each gallon of water to disinfect the area thoroughly.
  • Pump the septic system as soon as possible after the flood. Be sure to pump both the tank and lift station. This will remove silt and debris that may have washed into the system. Do not pump the tank during flooded or saturated drainfield conditions. At best, pumping the tank is only a temporary solution. Under worst conditions, pumping it out could cause the tank to try to float out of the ground and may damage the inlet and outlet pipes.
  • Do not compact the soil over the soil absorption field by driving or operating equipment in the area. Saturated soil is especially susceptible to compaction, which can reduce the soil absorption field’s ability to treat wastewater and lead to system failure.
  • Examine all electrical connections for damage before restoring electricity.
  • Be sure the septic tank’s manhole cover is secure and that inspection ports have not been blocked or damaged.
  • Check the vegetation over your septic tank and soil absorption field. Repair erosion damage and sod or reseed areas as necessary to provide turf grass cover.

Click here to find your local DHEC Environment office.  Additional resources may be found on the EPA’s website or CDC’s website.

 

Communicable Diseases and Floods

By DHEC Communications Staff

septic tank

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reminds all storm-affected residents that a tetanus vaccination is recommended if it’s been 10 years or more since your last tetanus vaccination or you have experienced an injury and your shot is more than five years old.  For those who require a tetanus vaccination, there will be no-cost Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccination clinics this weekend.  For information about locations, please click here.

Outbreaks of communicable diseases after floods are unusual. However, the rates of diseases that were present before a flood may increase because of decreased sanitation or overcrowding among displaced persons. Increases in infectious diseases that were not present in the community before the flood are not usually a problem. It is important to follow proper hygiene and clean-up processes.

The process of cleaning up and rebuilding from natural disasters like a flood can lead to injuries. For this reason, anyone who is working to clean up after this event should be sure that they are up-to-date with tetanus vaccination, ideally before starting cleanup activities.

First aid, even for minor cuts and burns, is very important during flood clean-up. If possible, immediately clean all wounds and cuts with soap and clean water.  If you receive a puncture wound or any wound that could be contaminated and you are not up to date on tetanus vaccine, seek medical attention from a doctor or other health care professional.  A health care provider will determine if you need additional preventive treatments, including tetanus vaccine.  Your local DHEC health department can also provide the tetanus vaccine as prevention, but if you need medical attention for a wound, you should seek care from a health care provider, urgent care or emergency department.

For more information, please visit the CDC website.