Safely dealing with urban sewage during a disaster

Hello. I’m new to the site and recently found an acute need to upgrade my preparedness. I moved to a flood prone urban area with an inadequate sewer/water system.

Flood waters are a combo of actual rain, raw sewage backed up from the sewer system, and the various chemicals and oils from flooded cars.

In a worst case scenario I would be walking through 12 in + of this stuff to get to safety. I also need a way to purify the municipal tap water for drinking. These events damage the water system and boil water warnings can last many days and are issued too late. I think it’s best to assume tap water is contaminated with whatever is in the flood waters as soon as the weather hits.

I have several days water in the recommended containers but that’s too heavy if we have to evac on foot.

What do you think on best PPE for wading through it? I currently have waterproof boots on order but will need something more substantial.

How about purifying the water if we have to leave home? I have a MSR Guardian Gravity purifier but it isn’t rated for chemicals. Maybe adding P&G Purifier of Water solution as an initial step?

At home I would also use a ZeroWater which has a good profile for removing various heavy metals/chemicals.

Thanks a lot. I look forward to being part of this helpful community.


  • Comments (6)

    • 2

      Good afternoon GMTIL,

      First, welcome to the TP.com forum.  I’m confident you will appreciate your time here.

      Flood waters also contain medical waste, agricultural chemical waste and all else specific to your community. Sometime radioactive materials are a component of flood waters.

      I personally would only consider sheltering in place and not even attempt to walk through 12 ” of flood water. You can easily become infected.  The one small splash does it.

      Twelve inches of water means more than wading. Six inches of flowing water can stop a car. Twelve inches will float the vehicle away.

      I cannot think of any appropriate PPE.

      Consider the shelter in place approach.

      Again, this is my personal opinion only.

      Transmitting from Hurricane Alley, Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia. 

      • 2

        I would agree with Bob, as flood waters generally don’t remain for weeks on end, and once they’ve subsided may be a better time to go. To escape, tho, I’m a fan of inflatable kayaks, for fun of course, but super practical too. Cheap, sturdy, light & easy to manage, and they take up very little storage space. If you’re not too big, you can take some gear in them, tucked under front & back flaps. We have several of this one and have talked several friends into them also. Saw prices for them up to $160, so they’re a great buy now at only $80 & change. We’ve taken them out several times and have had no problems, even dragging along some rocky bottoms, etc.  They float nice & high, so can navigate waters only about 8 inches deep, (clip on fin starts scraping at about that depth, and if heavily loaded I would expect you’d need deeper water.) Note that this one has an upper weight limit of only 220 pounds. And of course, common sense would be needed if there’s current, turbulence, and sharp debris in the water, likely best in calm, relatively settled waters.

      • 1

        We were talking about emergency rafts over on this thread. My question is how long does it take to inflate that raft?

        That does look like a fun raft by the way.

      • 2

        These go up in about 10 minutes max, as the included hand pump works both directions. I’m a small middle aged gal & manage mine just fine, set up, carry, launch, & take down. Usually stow small backpack in foot compartment when on water. Should I share the info on that other thread, Henry?

      • 2

        I don’t think the author of the original post over there ever got a satisfactory answer, so I’m sure it would be very helpful for him/her. They were looking for a sub $200 raft that could be carried in their car, and I think your’s fits the bill nicely. 

        Thanks for letting me know about the inflation time. 10 minutes really isn’t that bad.

    • 3

      Welcome to the site.  I too would recommend staying out of polluted water… period.  As far as drinking it, or contaminated water from the tap, I think I’d look at some sort of distillation method.

      Also, keep in mind a huge part of being prepared is avoiding issues… not just dealing with them.  When looking for a place to live, utmost in my mind has always been to stay out of any possible flood area.  Likewise, I don’t want any trees next to my house.  The more potential issues you can avoid makes prepping all the easier.