NASSCO Statement Regarding COVID-19 for Workers in Wastewater Industry

Considering the most recent information on the COVID-19 outbreak, currently NASSCO’s goal is to protect the health and safety of our workers and everyone who depends on wastewater systems. In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations during this uncertain time, we have outlined what we currently know about the Coronavirus and recommended measures for all contractors and individuals involved in wastewater sewer work.

What we know about the Coronavirus:

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  • Currently, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 Virus survives the disinfection process for drinking water and wastewater.
  • CDC is reviewing all data on COVID-19 transmission as information becomes available. 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.
  • No COVID-19-specific protections are recommended for employees involved in wastewater management operations, including those at wastewater treatment facilities.
    • Water resource recovery facility operations should ensure workers follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater. These include using engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) normally required for work tasks when handling untreated wastewater.
  • The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Strategies for Employees right now:

  • Crew size are typically below new state gathering mandate limits, and these individuals work in outside areas, thereby reducing the potential of spreading of the virus.
  • Repair and service to utility pipes (sewerage and water) is considered “essential” and work should continue.
  • Utility repair crews require very little interaction with the public. Necessary interaction can be achieved with one crew member practicing proper “social distancing”.
  • Owner/Engineer inspection of the contractor’s work can typically be overseen and documented by one employee at a safe distance.
  • Perform routine cleaning of common use items (for example, knobs/handles, keyboards, desk areas, hand tools), and wash your hands often. Don’t touch your face.
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Separate sick employees until they can leave the jobsite.
    • CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.

CDC is working across the Department of Health and Human Services and across the U.S. government in the public health response to COVID-19. Much is unknown about how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads. Current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.

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