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Update 2020/4/15


WT Staff

WT has been getting many emails from viewers inquiring about water and wastewater risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We forwarded them to Banu ÷rmeci, Professor and Jarislowsky Chair in Water and Health and Director, Global Water Institute Canada at Carleton University. See questions and answers below.

Can I get covid from drinking city or well water?

÷rmeci - There are two main routes of transmission of COVID-19, and those are through respiratory droplets and contact. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through drinking water or eating food.

Can I get covid from human waste, aka cleaning the toilet bowl?

÷rmeci - SARS-Cov-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, and a significant proportion of patients is believed to shed SARS-Cov-2 with their faeces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of catching COVID-19 from the faeces of patients is low. If there is a family member with COVID-19 at home, they should be provided with their own toilet. If there is not anyone sick, it is still good practice to flush the toilet with the lid down to prevent the formation of droplets and aerosols.

Given that we should isolate, Iíve been on a cleaning bender for days, if i wash my windows, or my car can i get this virus?

÷rmeci -This would be extremely unlikely and not really worth worrying about.

My First Nation community has water from a delivery truck, they come and fill up our water tanks, is this something I and my family should be concerned with?

÷rmeci -There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted from contaminated drinking water. If drinking water supply is contaminated with wastewater, there is a possibility that SARS-Cov-2 may be present in small numbers. However, if there is contamination from human waste, waterborne pathogens would be the main concern rather than SARS-Cov-2. In small communities where centralized water treatment and distribution systems are not available, safety of drinking water can be ensured by boiling water or using household water treatment systems such as membrane filters, UV disinfection, or chlorination. These additional steps would safely destroy viruses and other pathogens.

In my First Nation community, the waste goes into a lagoon, does this mean that when the wind blows across the lagoon it could infect our homes?

÷rmeci -Lagoons are widely used in Canada for wastewater treatment and even though they are simple systems, they do a good job in destroying pathogens due to the long retention times and exposure to sunlight. Wind can potentially aerosolize wastewater, but the risk of getting COVID-19 from these aerosols would be very unlikely.

My kids are asking if they take a bath will they get the super bug?

÷rmeci -Tap water goes through water treatment and disinfection processes and it is very safe. SARS-Cov-2 would not be present in tap water.

From a wastewater worker in a wastewater plant, do we need to wear more protective gear than we already do, the safety bulletins tell me to follow the usual protocols, the union seems to think they arenít doing enough, any help here?

÷rmeci -SARS-Cov-2 is an enveloped virus and easier to kill compared to enteric viruses during wastewater treatment and disinfection. The main concern at wastewater treatment plants would be the generation of bioaerosols due to aeration and mixing (i.e., activated sludge tanks) and the resulting surface contamination. WHO recommends wastewater workers to wear protective outerwear, gloves, boots, goggles or a face shield, and a mask in addition to washing hands frequently and avoiding touching face. Wearing a proper mask, such as the disposable N95 masks, would provide protection against respiratory transmission. WHO reports no evidence of wastewater treatment workers getting sick during the previous coronavirus-caused SARS (2003) and MERS (2012) outbreaks.

From another viewer, we as a family are isolating, Iím hoping that come May, we can open the backyard pool, for something to do, and something to keep the kids busy. is this ok? or is there something I should be doing differently?

÷rmeci -Yes, this is fine. Disinfection of pool water should be done properly just to be on the safe side.



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