March 13, 2020
Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) member companies manufacture and distribute water treatment equipment used in all sectors of our economy. This ensures the safety and quality of water, ultimately protecting human health and the environment. At no time in our recent history has this role been more important. The worldwide spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) caused the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially declare this outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, elevating its response urgency and acknowledging its likely spread to all countries around the world. Additional information from the WHO can be found at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/.
With this comes many public concerns. To contain or at least slow the spread of the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged people to regularly employ everyday health precautions that are used to curtail other viral transmissions including the flu. These include frequent and thorough hand washing, avoiding large crowds and cruises, keeping a safe space from others, and staying home when sick. For more vulnerable populations, additional measures such as stocking up on supplies and medicine and staying home as much as possible to reduce exposure risk are urged. More detailed instructions from the CDC can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
In addition to the WHO and CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled information on its website located at https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-drinking-water-and-wastewater about COVID-19 as it relates to drinking water and wastewater. At the site, they answer questions about tap water safety and state that Americans should continue to use (including for hand washing) and drink tap water without the need to boil the water first. Additionally, they note the WHO has not detected COVID-19 in drinking water supplies and that they have no evidence that the virus has been transmitted via sewage systems, regardless of whether the water is treated.
Additionally, WWEMA is closely monitoring whether any other protections for workers in this industry beyond current practices will be required to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure and risks. Workers are urged to follow existing protocols for personal protective equipment (PPE) that limit their direct exposure to untreated wastewater. The CDC has posted information on their website that addresses some of these issues at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html
WWEMA will continue to closely monitor this outbreak and provide updates to our members on any additional protective health measures that may be needed for the public, particularly as they relate to drinking water and wastewater.