⋅Untold Horrors – Hoarding⋅
We clean and deodorize hoarding sites that rival in deadly bacteria and biohazards the worst crime-scene cleanup. Hoarders are folks who compulsively collect objects, food, and animals. They develop an irrational emotional obsession with what they collect, and their collection gradually takes over their homes and property. Hoarding environments are packed so full of objects that sanitation becomes a serious health issue both for the residents of the home and for those who enter the home to clean it. Many hoarders also hoard animals and compulsively search dumpsters and garbage cans for objects to bring into the home. Almost all animal hoarders have dead, decaying animals in the environment, together with feces and urine, the bio hazards of which are as dangerous as those found at a crime scene.
Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind
All in a day’s work for Advanced Bio Treatment professionals, but, luckily, not for an average person. Therefore, an average person should not attempt to clean a hoarding environment. Here is one of our many stories:
We were called to a respectable home—from the outside, at least—in an old, historic downtown-Atlanta neighborhood. The circa-1920’s purple and gray two-story home sat on a quiet street surrounded by other older, nicely kept homes with big front porches and tiny, neatly manicured front lawns only a few feet from the sidewalk.
Looking at it from the street, no one could imagine what was inside this home.
Neighbors, however, reported a foul smell coming from the home as they passed it on the sidewalk and began calling the city code-enforcement office, which issued repeated warnings and then steep fines when those warnings went unheeded. Eventually, family stepped in when the accumulating fines reached over $9,000 and the house was slotted to be condemned within 30 days if not cleaned up. That’s when the inhabitant’s son called us.
Behind the Facade
The home’s owner was a 48-year-old woman living with her 82-year-old father. Even before our team entered the home, the foul odor was overpowering, and we went no further than two feet inside the front door before we had to start snaking our way through tunnels between the mounds of refuse piled literally to the ceiling. We finally reached the kitchen, which was filthy. We saw at least ten emaciated cats running for cover. No surface was visible because tables and counters were piled with decaying food, paper, kitchen objects, rodent feces, and refuse. We saw what looked like mounds of dirt or soil on the counters. It was cat feces, which had never been cleaned up. The floor also was not visible. It was covered with calf-deep rotting food and other garbage, some of it maggot-infested, and cat feces.
Filthy dishes and pots that filled the sink and covered the counter tops were crawling with roaches and other insects.
There was no running water. I dispatched one team of two employees to begin the cleanup there while I assessed the rest of the house.
In the bathroom, the tub was filled with boxes, dirty linens, rodent feces, and old newspapers. The sink was covered in cat and human hair and trash. The toilet was filled all the way to the seat with dried feces. The woman told us the plumbing in the house had not worked in over a year. When I asked her what she and her father used in place of the toilet, she pointed to a huge pile of white plastic bags in the hall, which were filled with human feces and tossed into what once was a closet. When we asked how she and her father bathed, she silently shrugged.
I guess she felt she had to justify herself to us. “It just got out of hand,” she mumbled. “With Dad moving in and me not being the best housekeeper, it just got out of hand. But we figured it wasn’t nobody’s business butting in like this. It’s our business.” She was angry and embarrassed and stormed out of the bathroom. A few minutes later, her son appeared and took her and her father away from the premises and we began the cleanup.
Back in the kitchen, the team had begun removing garbage into bio hazard bags with large flat-edge shovels and removing dead and partially decomposed cats from underneath the garbage.
By the end of the cleanup of that room, they had found the decomposed bodies of five cats.
We called animal control, who removed the living cats. The linoleum was completely rotted, along with most of the sub-flooring, which had marinated for years in cat urine and rotted, liquefied food. The refrigerator was still working, but it was crammed full with completely rotted food that had to be safely removed, packaged, and properly disposed of.
It took seven of our professionals two days to rid this home of its bio hazardous waste, which included dead and decaying animals, human and animal feces and urine, decayed food, and insects, so that contractors could come in and begin restoring the structural damage caused by the hoarding and lack of upkeep.
All of this waste was a breeding ground for deadly pathogens, disease, and serious illness.
We are grateful that this woman’s concerned son called us and left this hard-core bio-hazardous cleanup to the experts. Had he and other laymen attempted this cleanup themselves, improperly sanitized, improperly contained, and improperly removed bio hazards would have threatened the whole neighborhood and certainly any future residents of this home. Advanced Bio Treatment professionals are trained to clean a hoarding environment thoroughly, professionally, respectfully, and safely. We follow all OSHA, EPA, and state health department guidelines to make the environment safe and livable for others.