Responding to COVID-19: The Importance of Sewer Overflow Prevention
By Marina Fernandes, PE, LEED AP and Jennie Moonan, PE
Reducing the potential for wastewater to have contact with the public is even more important than ever. According to the CDC, at this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred. However, SARS, a similar coronavirus, has been detected in untreated sewage from 2 up to 14 days. More information is available online at the CDC’s website.
In this unprecedented time, it’s important to continue proactive operation and maintenance of the sewer system to help reduce the potential for sewer overflows. This includes the education of both your employees and the community.
Generally, handling of waste that is suspected or known to contain COVID-19 does not require special precautions or personal protection equipment (PPE) beyond those already used to protect workers from the hazards they encounter during their routine job tasks in solid waste and wastewater management. More information is available on OSHA’S website.
We encourage you to remind your ratepayers to avoid flushing “flushable wipes” and paper towels, as these products don’t break down like toilet paper and result in interruptions in sewer service and the potential for sewage to spill into people’s homes, into the street, or into water bodies, which poses a potential enhanced risk of people having contact with pathogens such as the COVID-19 virus.