Water Damage: Category III Black Water Damage
Historically speaking, August and September are the
most active months for hurricanes in the Atlantic/Gulf
Regions. In addition, there are often severe storms
throughout the rest of the nation during these months.
All of these events have the potential of releasing
record amounts of rain in some areas and causing serious
flooding across wide regions.
According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and
Restoration Certification (IICRC) standard for professional
water damage restoration (ANSI/IICRC S500-2006), Category
III water damage (often called black water) is water
damage to a structure where the origin is unsanitary
or potentially infectious to humans. The black water
classification also includes less contaminated water
not treated in a timely manner. The classification depends
on the origin of the water damage and the time of exposure
- regardless of the actual color or appearance of the
water. Some examples of Category III black water include:
all sewage backflows and all rising water from rivers,
streams, and seawater that enter a structure. Hurricanes
and storms are usually the causes of this type of damage.
When dealing with Category III water damage, a professional
restoration business should consider several basic factors.
First, the safety of the building occupants and all
workers is the primary consideration. Second, the business
should conduct a thorough inspection to determine the
severity of the damage since that will affect the restoration
process. Third, there should be the rapid removal of
excess water, the removal of all contaminated porous
items, and the proper disposal of the sewage and other
wastes. Finally, the professional will need to establish
a Balanced Drying System to restore the environment
to its pre-loss, normally dry state.
Safety in all instances must be the very first consideration
when exposure to Category III contaminates is a possibility.
Category III water intrusion could contain many harmful
viruses including Hepatitis A, Rotavirus, Adenoviruses,
and Enteroviruses. Several parasites and many kinds
of harmful bacteria could also be present. And, of course,
numerous fungi in the form of mold spores are also present
and can become a serious problem if timely decontamination
does not occur and if professional drying does not begin
within twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
Category III water intrusion can be subdivided into
three levels that will help the professional restoration
business process the contamination efficiently.
- Category III Level 1 contamination is usually
a very limited waste problem. It always originates inside
the building or house, affects a small area, does not
affect porous material, does not penetrate the structure,
and has had limited time of exposure. A small toilet
overflow is one example.
- Category III Level 2 contamination also originates
inside the building. However, the area of direct contamination
is larger. Porous materials as well as non-porous materials
are affected. Restoration must be more thorough to include
removing moisture barriers like vinyl and plastics that
will contain the contamination. Cabinets and other structural
enclosures must be inspected and possibly removed if
the contamination is present - especially if it is inside
the walls behind these items. All contaminated porous
items such as drywall, carpet, pad, upholstery, drapery,
or particleboard furniture must be removed and properly
- Category III Level 3 contamination includes
water and waste coming from an outside source such as
a septic system, main sewage line, rivers, streams,
and ocean waters. Level 3 indicates more contamination
for a longer period and presents a much greater health
All black water losses present serious risk of illness.
Therefore, contractors should ensure that all employees
wear appropriate personal protective equipment. For
Level 1 losses, eye protection, gloves, and boots (or
shoe covers) may be sufficient. For Level 2 and Level
3 the protection would be more extensive, which could
include waterproof coveralls and respirators.
The professional restoration business like PuroClean
Home Rescue will know when to use an air scrubber to
clean the air, or a negative air machine with containment
to prevent contamination from spreading to unaffected
areas. They will also make certain that all remaining
surfaces are cleaned and sanitized with appropriate
cleaners and EPA-approved disinfectants.
Following a Category III black water loss, a professional
restoration business will understand and use proper
procedures, techniques, products, and equipment (such
as professional dehumidifiers and high capacity air
movers) to establish a Balanced Drying System to help
restore property to its pre-loss condition safely and
as rapidly as possible.