CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 90 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). (This information was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.)
Currently, there is no evidence on the survival of COVID-19 virus in drinking water or sewage. The morphology and chemical structure of COVID-19 virus is very similar to other surrogate human coronaviruses for which there is evidence on both survival in the environment and effective inactivation measures.(This information was taken from the World Helath Organization’s Water, sanitation, hygiene and wastemanagement for COVID-19 document.)
Water System Information
The National Rural Water Association continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recommends all water and wastewater utilities review the best and latest information on the following trusted websites:
At this time, existing safe management techniques in both drinking water and sanitation apply to COVID-19. Extra measures are not needed. In particular, disinfection treatment processes will facilitate more rapid die-off of the COVID-19 virus. Provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions play an essential role in protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Frequent and proper hand washing is one of the most important prevention measures for COVID-19. Good and consistently applied hygiene in communities, homes, schools, workplaces, marketplaces and health care facilities will further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.
This outbreak continues to evolve and information changes daily. Similar to past viral outbreaks of this magnitude, COVID-19 is something to be taken very seriously. NRWA will continue to monitor the situation and is following the guidance of leading health authorities. Any impact to technical assistance, training programs, meeting and/or conferences will be posted prominently at www.nrwa.org.
Essential Workers Template
EPA is providing the attached template for state, localities and water utilities to use to provide documentation to workers that are considered essential. This template complements the letter that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent to Governors in all 50 states, territories, and Washington, DC on March, 27, 2020 requesting that water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, are considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. The template will be also available for download here.
Update From CISA:
The advisory list identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions, among others. It also includes workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure. The industries they support represent, but are not limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.
View full updated press release here.
Update From USDA:
USDA Rural Development has launched a COVID-19 resource page to keep our customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated on actions taken by the Agency to help rural residents, businesses, and communities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Update From EPA:
EPA’s temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently. For example, under the policy EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The policy also describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.
Find more information here.
Water System Preparedness Planning
The Influenza Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan Template was created by Philip Van Atta through Wright State University’s Master of Public Health Program. It provides the structure of an influenza pandemic plan for water systems. This plan can be used alone or incorporated with utilities’ current emergency plan and tailored to fit the system’s needs.
Please click the button below to download the Influenza Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan Template.
Please click the button below to download the full Water System Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza report.
Continuity of Operations
Please click the button below to download the Business Continuity Planning for Water Utilities: Guidance Document compiled by the Water Research Foundation, EPA and American Water Works Association.
The National Rural Water Association is requesting each State Association compile a list of certified water and wastewater operators who might be available to provide on-site emergency assistance to systems if operators and technicians are impacted by COVID-19. State Associations should broadly reach out to develop a listing of available personnel, including to state agencies.
This list can include retired or semi-retired operators, certified individuals not currently working as an operator, qualified consultants, or other related individuals.
Communicate with your member utilities to encourage them to reach out to their neighboring utilities to become better prepared. This will help create informal mutual aid agreements if critical staff is confined and unable to run the system.
Water & Wastewater Systems:
During this viral outbreak, there may be systems which require operational assistance if critical staff are quarantined or unable to run the water system. Each State Association is alert and available by phone to respond to emergencies. In addition, neighboring water and wastewater operators are a great resource for backup coverage in case of emergencies.
If you are a retired or semi-retired operator, certified individual not currently working as an operator, qualified consultant, or other related individual willing to provide relief to systems that need backup coverage, please contact your state association from the map below to join this list.