In The Know: The Water Sector & Coronavirus

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been making updates to keep citizens abreast of all information concerning coronavirus and its effects on drinking water and wastewater.

The Facts from WEF

  • To date, there is no epidemiological evidence of viable COVID-19 virus in wastewater systems.
  • It appears that contracting COVID-19 through exposure to wastewater is unlikely.

WEF is working to keep wastewater workers protected from disease causing microorganisms and pathogens by forming a Blue Ribbon Panel to address the issue of required PPE as well as protective work and hygiene practices.

The Facts from CDC

  • There is no evidence that coronavirus survives the disinfection process for drinking water and wastewater.
    • The virus has not been detected in drinking water
    • Risk of transmission through feces is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses including SARS and MERS
    • Risk of transmission through sewerage systems is thought to be low
  • No coronavirus-specific protections are required for employees involved in wastewater management operations, including those working at wastewater treatment facilities.
    • Workers should follow their routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater as they normally would. This includes using engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE that is typically required when handling untreated wastewater.
    • Water workers should continue:
      • Wearing appropriate protective gear including gloves, boots, goggles, or face shield masks
      • Washing hands frequently
      • Avoiding touching of the nose, eyes, and mouth

For more information specifically related to the water sector during the pandemic, visit the WEF website here.

The following resources are also available to the public:

  • WEF Executive Round Table Series – Round table discussions (on video) on how the virus is affecting operations, business, and people, as well as the impacts and future changes on the workforce, productivity, projects, communication, and more. Each round table will be hosted by Walt Marlowe, WEF Executive Director.
  • Biological Hazards Resource – Access Water, powered by WEF, has a manual on the Safety, Health and Security of Wastewater Systems. The chapter “Biological Hazards at Wastewater Treatment Facilities” is available for free, and the whole manual is being offered at 50 percent off its original price.
  • Assistance for Worker Safety – Several water sector partners have offered their assistance to WEF to provide products to protect and maintain the health of water sector workers. Interested in helping? Click here to get in touch with WEF to learn how you can assist.
  • Webinars – there are several webinars available surrounding coronavirus subjects and the effect on the water sector. View them all here.

Please keep in mind that as the nature of the virus evolves, so too does the information and resources. Be sure to check back on the WEF website for daily updates.


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