Wastewater Treatment and Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Currently, evidence suggests that COVID-19, while potentially present in raw wastewater, should be regarded similarly to other pathogens typically present in raw or partially treated wastewater (e.g., adenovirus, Giardia, E. coli, etc.).
Some best practices and guidance can be found through the Water Environment Federation, OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control. Each provides guidance for wastewater and sewage workers regarding best practices, recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), standard safety protocols and basic hygiene practices.
Current disinfection practices at water resource recovery facilities, including chlorination, UV disinfection and ozonation are proven to be highly effective at disinfecting and inactivating viruses, including the coronavirus. Proper PPE and safety protocols should be carefully followed by operations and maintenance personnel around raw and partially treated wastewater, especially in areas with higher potential for aerosolization, physical contact with liquid waste or droplets, and areas with poor ventilation. Undigested residuals and Class B and C dewatered biosolids can also contain pathogens. Proper PPE, such as rubber boots, gloves, coveralls, goggles and face masks, should be used appropriately in areas of potential exposure.