When bad storms and hurricanes hit, the consequences can last long after the winds and rain have stopped.
One of the biggest – and most dangerous – concerns can be the presence of “black water” in your home from storm-related flooding.
What is black water?
Black water refers to floodwaters that are heavily contaminated with a mixture of various substances, including:
- Sewage: Perhaps the most concerning element in black water is sewage. When floodwaters overwhelm local sewage systems, they can carry a noxious blend of human waste, bacteria and viruses into homes.
- Chemicals: Floodwaters can mix with hazardous chemicals from factories, labs and storage facilities. These chemicals can contaminate the water and pose severe health risks to anybody who comes into contact with them.
- Microorganisms: Black water is a breeding ground for a variety of disease-causing microorganisms, such as E. coli and salmonella. These pathogens can lead to serious illnesses and infections that can incapacitate or kill someone.
- Dead animals: Floodwaters can kill, and black water often contains the carry bodies of animals, which can introduce additional toxins and pathogens into the water that can make humans very sick.
The health risks of black water are clear, but black water also poses a significant danger to the environment as a whole, and it is extremely corrosive to buildings. How can you stay safe in the presence of black water? Ideally, you want to avoid contact with black water entirely. Don’t wade through black water in your home in an attempt to rescue personal items, because anything it has touched will likely be too contaminated to salvage.
If you must enter an area with black water, you need to “suit up” with personal protective equipment, like waterproof waders, boots, gloves and a mask. It’s also critical to make sure that you wash any exposed skin carefully with soap and water as soon as possible. If you do come into contact with black water, make sure you are on the alert for nausea, diarrhea, fevers and skin rashes that could indicate you’ve picked up an illness or infection, and seek prompt medical attention.
Black water is just one of the many things people need to navigate after a serious storm. If your insurance company is refusing to do its part or dragging its feet, it may be time to seek experienced legal assistance with your claim.