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Sewage Leak Compromises Operating Room’s Safety

A serious sewage leak from a punctured sewage line inside the wall of an operating room at a well-known local surgery center could have seriously compromised the health and safety of patients and other occupants if it wasn’t taken care of properly and efficiently.

Fortunately, the situation was professionally handled and the risks were soon mitigated. A Portland construction company contacted us to conduct an inspection and perform testing in the clinic’s operating room. Doing so would help ensure that any risks were removed and that patients and staff were in a safe and healthy environment.

How did the surgery center find out about the sewage leak?

A simple observation tipped off the medical staff to the problem: They saw moisture at the base of the operating room’s west wall. Moisture on and inside walls can provide a haven for certain bacteria and fungi to flourish if left untreated.

Of course, an operating room needs to be a completely sterile environment for the safety of patients as well as the medical staff. A destructive inspection of the area was performed. Drywall was removed in order to see inside the wall and try to determine the source of the excess moisture.

The culprit was soon discovered:  A punctured sewage line inside the wall.

Untreated sewage contains bacteria and other organisms that can cause serious, sometimes fatal, diseases and health issues. The presence of an open sewage line inside a surgery center was a major cause for concern that required immediate action.

How was it safely tested and remediated?

The area was isolated to prevent any bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other contaminants inside the wall from potentially spreading throughout the operating room and facility. The affected materials (drywall and sheet flooring) were remediated by removing and replacing them or thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting them.

The destructive inspection and remediation work had been performed by outside professional contractors. An additional inspection along with laboratory testing needed to be done to establish that the remediation work had been sufficient and bacterial hazards were no longer present in the operating room.

How did G2 help with the sewage leak?

G2 was contacted to perform a visual inspection and post-remediation bacterial testing in the operating room. This visit was a follow-up to a prior visual inspection.

During the previous visit, a G2 technician performed a thorough visual inspection of the affected area. The technician’s observations prompted him to recommend that further remediation and cleaning be done before proper bacterial testing could be performed. Specifically, he recommended:

  • Additional removal of drywall, cove base, and sheet flooring
  • Clean all affected areas with a hospital-grade antibacterial disinfectant
  • Apply an antibacterial encapsulant to building materials inside the opened wall cavity

The recommended actions were completed. A G2 consultant was now back at the facility to complete another visual inspection and take post remediation swab samples for bacterial testing. Results would indicate whether the previous remediation activities were effective.

Three swab samples were taken from the contained area. The sample locations included the exposed concrete floor, metal wall track, and the wall-mounted unistrut.

Was Any Bacteria Found?

We sent the samples to an accredited laboratory where they were analyzed for a Total Coliform bacteria count and the presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli). An elevated rate of either would indicate that further remediation, cleaning, and disinfection would be necessary to return the room to safe use for operations.

As it turned out, the prior hard work had paid off. Laboratory results indicated that Total Coliform and E. coli was not present in elevated or dangerous levels in the operating room.

Contact G2 Consultants for Trusted Post-Remediation Services

Our clients working in hospitals and healthcare facilities rely on us to ensure that all staff and patients remain safe from environmental health hazards inside their buildings. If you see anything that looks out of the ordinary such as excessive moisture on walls like our clients in this story noticed, don’t risk your or anyone else’s health! Contact us for full-service environmental health and safety consulting services you can trust.