Category 3 WaterCategory 3 Water

When rising flood waters damage your home, it can be tricky to decipher whether your insurance policies cover it or not. In basic terms, flood damage coverage gets decided based on the category of water damage. Though it sounds related to hurricane categories, the types of water damage are a separate scale altogether. There are three basic water damage severity levels - Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3.

What is Category 3 Water?
The most profound definition of Category 3 water is its gross contamination from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It comes from fertilizers, feces, and toxic sediments washed away from nearby farms, wildlife areas, industrial waste, and waterbeds. It also develops in homes from toilet overflow fecal matter, materials soaked in contaminated fluids, etc. Category 3 water, also known as black water, is dangerous to the health of humans, pets, and plants.

In normal environments, water in nearby areas is free of or low in these contaminations. But after a natural disaster that causes floods, these contaminants are stirred up and form stagnant water damage. That can be detrimental to homes and human health.

Category 3 Water Examples
Category 3 water can wreak havoc in your home. It is so dangerous when contacted or consumed that whoever cleans it should wear personal protection equipment. Here are some examples of Category 3 water problems:

  • Carpet and padding damaged by category-3 water are almost impossible to clean and restore. It is safer and healthier to throw it away. Then, have a water mitigation company clean underneath where the carpet and cushion were. Ensure the floor is free of any contamination.
  • Rising water from rivers or streams is a serious threat to homes nearby. Each carries different toxins. For example, the Ohio River contains mercury from industrial waste dumping mostly by AK Steel Corporation.

    The Mississippi River carries pollution from fertilizer runoff. It is responsible for a dead zone of 6000 to 8000 square miles that runs into the Gulf of Mexico. If nearby homes flood from these river waters, the waters most likely will contain Category 3 water levels.
  • A science school project could easily demonstrate the transition of Category 1 water loss. Use water from an unclean pan after cooking. Let it sit in a cup. Watch it form a molded crust that develops grey water and ultimately turns into Category 3 water and black mold.
  • A broken toilet that overflows fecal matter is the most obvious Category 3 water example.

    water leaking GIF
  • Category 3 water losses from things like a non-functional aquarium that sat for a few months before emptying it most likely contains significant contamination. If it gets knocked over onto a hardwood floor and the homeowner is unaware, the floor undoubtedly will develop black mold.  If it seeps into the wood and remains wet for a long time, the wood turns black. You may have seen wood that has black stains. That's probably black mold.

Category 3 Water vs. Category 1 & 2
What makes Category 3 water different from the 1 and 2 Categories? While Category 1 and 2 water is terrible, Category 3 water poses a substantial risk to human health and property damage.

Perhaps the easiest way to remember the differences is that:

  • Category 1 water is sanitary
  • Category 2 water is gray water
  • Category 3 water is black water - the most contaminated of the three.

While Category 2 water usually stems from broken water supply lines or leaking dishwashers, Category 3 water is more extreme. It is a typical result of a natural disaster event.

Category 2 water can turn into 3, however, if left untreated. Address water repairs immediately. Then, have the source of the problem fixed in the long run, such as installing a sump pump.

Experts strongly recommend hiring a certified restoration company right away if you have black water damage in your home. You can find one at the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) website. Restoring the original state of your home is possible if you quickly remediate the contamination. Dealing with the aftereffects of a flooding event is devastating enough.

Trying to clean from Category 3 water is overwhelming for many people. Professional restoration cleaners are very experienced at this. They can usually do it faster and better than if you do it yourself.

Category 1 Water - Clean (Sanitary) Water
This type of water flooding comes from a sanitary source. Examples include washing machine overflow, melting ice or snow, or leakage from a clean water supply line such as fire sprinklers. However, it can advance to Category 2 if you do not immediately address it.

All water leaks have the potential for bacteria and mold growth over time. Sanitary water can easily get contaminated by building material chemicals, soil, and so on.

Category 2 Water - Gray Water
Category 2 water is the beginning stage of contaminated water, and it carries potential health risks. It may cause illness or discomfort to people. Also known as gray water, it comes from large water losses, such as:

  • Broken aquariums
  • Acute water intrusion from toilet bowls
  • Sewage backup
  • Other similar residential water sources

These events could cause water damage to walls and ceilings. It may pose a significant risk of advancing to the third category. Therefore, you may need to implement sump pumps and specialty drying situations to remedy the problem.

What is Category 3 Water Damage?
Category 3 water toxins can cause significant property damage and harm the people living in affected areas. This type of water may have high concentrations of mold, bacteria, pesticides, or heavy metals that can induce discomfort or sickness. It can be deadly if ingested.

For example, over 1,000 people in the New Orleans area sustained illness or injury during and after Hurricane Katrina. Harmful agents can enter the human body in three ways - absorption, ingestion, or inhalation.

An example of ingestion would be a gastrointestinal illness from drinking water contaminated with fungus and bacteria after a storm. Contaminated buildings with pathogenic, toxigenic substances released into the air can aggravate an asthmatic person's symptoms. That is an example of inhalation.

Finally, an individual could sustain injury or infection if their skin touches Category 3 standing water after a flood event.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Category 3 Water?
Most insurance companies in the United States do not provide homeowner insurance coverage for flood water damage in homeowners insurance policies. Instead, you will need a separate flood insurance policy to pay for flood damage. If you live in flood zones, be aware that there is a waiting period before your flood insurance kicks in. When filing water damage insurance claims, it helps to use a certified professional water remediation company that is IICRC s500 category 3 water damage certified.

With these details in mind, homeowners need to ensure that they have adequate flood insurance protection. Remember, flood damage includes water sources from inside and outside the home, such as pipe or appliance leaks, floods, and sewage backups.

For more information about Category 3 water damage, reference the IICRC s500 standard and reference guide to find a professional home remediation company. Your home insurance agent can help you navigate the murky insurance waters. They will help you find the best policy to fund your professional water damage restoration service. They can also answer your specific questions relating to black water and preventative measures for water damage.

Hope that helps!

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At your service,
Young Alfred