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Many Utilities Are Already Prepared for Ebola

ebolaMany wastewater utilities in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Montana are already utilizing disinfection practices which prevent the spread of diseases such as Ebola. “Our clients’ water treatment and wastewater disinfection practices are providing extremely thorough removal and/or inactivation of viruses, including Ebola,” said Deon Stockert, PE, AE2S Regional Client Program Leader.

Since Ebola is an enveloped virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is more fragile and susceptible to environmental stresses and disinfectants than non-enveloped viruses such as hepatitis A, poliovirus, and norovirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) also notes that wastewater treatment in North America is sufficient to inactivate pathogens, including Ebola. The main concern for municipal wastewater utilities is protecting utility workers upstream of the treatment system.

The CDC recommends the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers dealing with human waste or potential waste, and the use of PPE is common for local wastewater workers. PPE used most often include goggles, facemasks, respirators, and impermeable clothing. “The Ebola threat is a good reminder for utility workers to practice effective workplace hygiene, reevaluate Standard Operating Procedures, and make modifications to reduce the risk of exposure to Ebola or other infectious diseases,” said Scott Schaefer, PE, AE2S Wastewater Practice Leader.

The CDC recently released new guidance for wastewater workers which addresses basic hygiene practices, PPE use, and disposal actions that should be taken. The guidance is entitled "Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Individuals with Ebola in the United States". Much of the Interim Guidance is based on WHO information, studies, and recommendations. WHO recommends that Ebola waste be disposed of through a sanitary sewer or buried in a pit toilet or latrine with no additional contact or treatment.

If you have additional questions about how an outbreak could impact your wastewater facility, contact Scott Schaefer, AE2S Wastewater Practice Leader, at Scott.Schaefer@ae2s.com or 763-463-5036.


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