Flood Cleanup For Hoarders
Have you ever had one of those days where you regret going to work? I sure have had that experience. Most of the time when I have that feeling it is because I am doing a flood cleanup for a hoarder. I have had the pleasure of doing a water removal for a flooded basement hoarder style many times. They almost always are memorable just because of the sheer volume of content that the hoarders accumulate! Often the flood water hides the dangerous stuff under some of the nastiest water you have ever seen. When pumping water out of hoarder basements you usually have to figure out the safest place to put the black water. The first thing you need to focus on is safety when doing water damage restoration especially when dealing with a true hoarder situation. A lot of flooded basements have a good amount of content but true hoarders will have content in every available inch of space.
The first hoarder job we did was and still is the worst job we have ever done. When I arrived to do the estimate there was already five other restoration companies on site. By the time I got out of my truck and made it the front door four of them had left. Turns out that David, the owner, was about to lose his home to foreclosure and as soon as he told us the fifth guy left. Uninsured people in foreclosure with nine feet of flood water don’t get a lot of sympathy from most restoration companies. I was sympathetic and took the time to think about it and ask some questions. I quickly found out that the house was not yet in foreclosure but headed that way so I took a chance and started the job. To this day I still don’t know if that was a good decision.
David was a unique guy with a serious problem with collecting things. When we pulled up to the home we thought that he was having a garage sale because of all the stuff spread out across the driveway. David had filled up his first floor with so much stuff that you couldn’t even enter the upstairs of the home. The garage and the basement were the same way. He had ran out of space in his home so he started leaving his treasures in his driveway. The village was not happy with this and were fining him over a hundred dollars a day which prevented the bank from filing foreclosure. When we showed up the next morning to start the job we found David using the bathroom into a plastic bag on his porch. What a totally uncomfortable situation to be in.
When we went to the back of the house to throw the pumps into the flooded basements that is when we discovered the flies. As soon as we opened the door to the back of his home thousands upon thousands of flies started pouring out of his home. It was completely surreal to see such an event! It took over ten minutes for enough flies to leave the home before we felt comfortable trying to put the pumps in. We knew that it was a nine foot ceiling in that basement of almost 2700 square feet and that is a lot of water.
Q: How much water is that?
A: 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot, and with approximately 24,300 cubic feet, that means 181,764 gallons of the nastiest flood water ever!
Usually when you throw a pump into a body of water you will hear a splash but we heard a thump. It quickly became apparent to our horror that the basement was so full of content that we had to remove content from the motor oil looking water as our pumps worked. Turns out that David used the basement to hoard food! That is right! In that Olympic size swimming pool of bio-hazard water which sat for the better part of three weeks was mostly food. Hence the flies! It took three days to get all the water out and that entire time people were coming from miles around to see what the smell was. Turns out that the 100 pounds of deer meat floating in a fridge for three weeks made it kind of gamey!
Glad I wore a mask….
When the water was half way down we thought it might be a good idea to make it to the sump pit to see if we could get the pumps in the home to work. That was a mistake! I would not let one of my guys go through that so I put on a haz-mat suit and some waders with a respirator. As I bravely, or stupidly, made my way through the black water towards the pumps I saw a pallet full of rice. The customer had hoarded boxes and boxes of rice and it appeared that the boxes had fallen apart after sitting for so long in the water. I started to scoop the rice out of my way as I moved towards the pump in the lake of death. I made it a few steps before I realized that the rice did indeed burst out of the bags and form a rice island in the water, which happened to be where the flies came from. Turns out what I was scooping out of my way was actually mostly maggots! I turned towards the stairs to make my escape but I knew I wouldn’t make it. It was too late….
I had a horrible choice in front of me!!!
1. I could take off my respirator and throw up in the lake of death!
2. I could throw up in my respirator!
I chose to throw up in my respirator as I made my way to the stairs. To get safely to the stairs I had to take my time to avoid slipping and taking the worst bath of my life. So I swallowed my vomit back down and took the longest walk of my life. I rationalized to myself that the flood water, which I could smell even through the best respirator ever, was to much of a risk to get me infected that I could not take my mask off. That water was no joke! A drop of that on your skin and you could get really sick. That was single handily the most disgusted I have ever felt. In a lifetime with it’s fair of shame, I had hit a low.
Once we got the water out the rest of the flood cleanup went smoothly. We wound up taking seven 3o yard dumpsters out of the home. That is a record for us in a residential flood cleanup, which is even more impressive when considering he had twice that amount of stuff upstairs. We made a lot of money but I had to swallow vomit. Moral of the story…..I hate maggots.