Connections Between COVID 19 and Wastewater
Kona Coast Waterkeeper, a local nonprofit dedicated to clean water, issued a press release intended to help community members focus on the most pressing threats of COVID 19, which is person-to-person transfer of the virus.
Reports in the media and some scientific journals have raised concerns about the COVID 19 virus being excreted in feces and detected in municipal sewage as well as in the ocean. Some environmental organizations have implied in new releases that sewage and wastewater may be a source of infection for swimmers and paddlers.
To address the issue amidst a scarcity of evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) offers a scientifically sound perspective on the potential for the virus to contaminate wastewater systems.
“There is no evidence to date that the COVID19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems with or without wastewater treatment,” the WHO said. “Furthermore, there is no evidence that sewage or wastewater treatment workers contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS], which is caused by another type of coronavirus that caused a large outbreak of acute respiratory illness in 2003.”
The WHO also advised there have been “no reports of fecal-oral transmission of the COVID-19 virus”.
While the risk of contracting the virus through wastewater in the ocean remains low, residents should be very careful with sanitary practices at home. The WHO provides guidance regarding COVID-19 for home wastewater management.
“People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease should be provided with their own flush toilet or latrine that has a door that closes to separate it from the patient’s room.,” the WHO said. “Flush toilets should operate properly and have functioning drain traps. When possible, the toilet should be flushed with the lid down to prevent droplet splatter and aerosol clouds. The toilet should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily (by persons wearing PPE).”
About Kona Coast Waterkeeper: In partnership with Kona Coast Waterkeeper, Applied Life Sciences, LLC has conducted water quality monitoring activities in the ocean since early 2018, using several markers to detect wastewater. This research will continue in 2020 and results will be shared with the community. Kona Coast Waterkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance.
Under the direction of Board President, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement to protect water resources, currently uniting more than 350 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates in over 40 countries. The collective mission is fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. The organization is committed to finding solutions to reduce land-based pollutants and improve water quality. For more information, visit https://waterkeepershi.org/.