Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mucking Around in Sewage

Well, my time on the project in Detroit is over, though I will be going back to the area in a month for another client. I have some small trips lined up over the next few weeks, including a trip to Chicago in a couple days and one to the middle of nowhere, Indiana next week. But I'm not here to write about that. No, I'm here to write about flood cleanup, and the joys of rubber boots.

Yesterday I went with a group of people from my church to do flood cleanup in Winfield, MO. Winfield is a small town that got heavily flooded when the Mississippi overflowed its banks last month. Part of the town was high enough to be spared, but the low-lying places got it about three feet high. I worked on two houses, where we ripped out rotting drywall and wood paneling. The first house was easy; just removing drywall, doors, and molding. Not a problem at all. The second house, man, that one was different.

Slight digression: before heading down there I had gone out and purchased some work boots. I got the rubber slip-over kind that you just put your regular shoes into. I wasn't sure quite what I would need, so I got the ones that went up about 14 inches, rather than the cheaper, but shorter ones. That first house was so easy that I was thinking I had wasted my money. The second house, though, showed that I actually knew what I was doing.

The second house, you see, was a split-level. The main level had already been gutted by an earlier crew, so we didn't have anything to do there. the lower level, though, had flooded completely, floor to ceiling. Most of the water was gone, but there was still some left, along with sewage. Yes, the lower level had sewage back up in it. At this point, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck in Converse sneakers mucking through the sewage. Yeah, wearing appropriate footwear is important! So, quickly the call came out for me to descend into the deepest part and start picking junk out of the smelly water to throw away. They had a lot of old shoes down there, man. And a car headlight. And a seat to a bass boat. And more, and more, and more. I think they were the kind of people that keep everything, just in case it ever becomes useful again. Well, what it became was a sewage-infested junk heap, that's what it became.

Once the trash was removed, the walls were knocked down, paneling removed, and then we punched holes in the ceiling until it came down (on the head of Mr. Converse, who wasn't paying proper attention to what was going on around him) in large chunks. Interesting fact; if you put a lot of gypsum into sewage water, it absorbs the water and becomes the nastiest smelling concrete-looking stuff you've ever smelled. Just a piece of trivia there for you.

So, yeah, good times! At least I was mucking out other people's houses, and not my own house. I can't even imagine what that would be like, basically losing everything you own to sewage water. Nasty.

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