In a water loss situation it is critical to understand what kind of water you are working with. The water that comes from a broken water line in the house and has affected a wall and carpet is different from water coming up from a drain in the floor. If the water sits in the carpet for three days it may change from a category 1 to category 2 or 3. The risk of bio-hazards becomes part of the assessment process. This assessment of water damage is critical for the home or business owner as well the restoration professional. The commonly termed categories for water damage have led to some misconceptions
The IICRC (Institute of International Cleaning and Restoration Certification) is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards developer. They produce standards for the cleaning and restoration Industry. The current standard that addresses water damage restoration is the S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration (S500).
In the S500, water is described relative to its degree of contamination in 3 categories. The determination of the category helps restorers to determine the restorability of an affected material and to determine the need for personal protective equipment to be worn by restorers during restoration.
Category 1 water originates from a sanitary (clean) water source and does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. (i.e., broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives).
Category 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as other organic or inorganic matter (chemical or biological). (i.e., discharge from dishwashers or washing machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums and punctured water beds).
Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic or other harmful agents. (i.e., sewage; toilet backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap regardless of visible content or color; all forms of flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind-driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather-related events that can carry contaminants (e.g., silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, regulated materials, or toxic organic substances).