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Riverkeeper Considers Impact Of COVID-19 In Water, Sewage

Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley
Courtesy of Riverkeeper/Dan Shapley
Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley

Although other aspects of the pandemic have gotten more attention, there are questions about how COVID-19 relates to water and sewage. Environmental group Riverkeeper has been looking into whether the virus survives in either and poses a transmission risk. Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley has been researching the subject. He spoke with WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne.

Q&A with Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley.

A state Department of Environmental Conservation statement says, “Basic sanitation, including preventing human and animal wastes from reaching drinking water or food supplies, is a critical function of wastewater treatment to protect public health and the environment. Wastewater treatment operators have well-established and effective protocols in place that environmental and health agencies such as CDC, OSHA, EPA, and WHO, among others, consider effective in protecting workers from pathogens in human wastes. Drinking water treatment also effectively addresses viruses such as COVID-19. Additionally, according to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence of COVID-19 illness from the virus from treated or untreated wastewater treatment plant effluent.”

DEC requires seasonal disinfection of treated wastewater effluent beginning May 1.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other pathogens, adding that coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection. In a Q&A on its website, EPA writes that standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective.

Meantime, Shapley says COVID-19 has curtailed Riverkeeper’s gathering of water quality data.

Dan Shapley is water quality program director for Ossining-based Riverkeeper.

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