Reports about the spread of the Ebola virus continue to make headlines in the news. The focus has primarily been on health care workers, but what of those in the wastewater treatment field? Are they at risk? According to information on the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) website, Ebola is not a waterborne illness.[i] However, although wastewater treatment processes are designed to inactivate infectious agents, there is little data at this time specifically about Ebola. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) conducted a conference call with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on October 16, 2014 about this issue. At that time, the CDC announced that it is preparing an interim guidance document for wastewater treatment workers entitled, Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United States. This document should be available on the CDC website very shortly. Since they are leading the containment and prevention effort for Ebola, the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/ebola is the best resource for current information.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also issued a report about Ebola and wastewater, stating on their website that, “There is no evidence to date that Ebola has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.”[ii]
If you are interested in obtaining the very latest information regarding Ebola and wastewater treatment, there will be a webinar addressing worker safety on November 4, 2014 from 2 to 3 PM EST. It is a joint WEF/WERF Webcast and the registration information and overview are as follows:
Wastewater Worker Safety – Addressing Concerns on Ebola in Wastewater
11/04/2014 – 2:00 – 3:00 pm Eastern
PLEASE NOTE: In order to ensure a smooth connection for all attendees, a maximum of 1,000 computers can log into the webcast. Make sure you SIGN ON EARLY to reserve your seat. As a courtesy to others, if multiple people in your office are interested in viewing the webcast, please gather in a conference room. If you are unable to join the live webcast, the recording will be available within 24 hours of the event.
This joint WEF/WERF Webcast, co-sponsored by APHA, AWWA, ACWA, AMWA, CASA, NACWA, NRWA, WaterISAC, and WateReuse, will address concerns that the Ebola virus poses on wastewater worker safety. Join us for a discussion on:
- A general overview of what is known about the survival of the Ebola virus in wastewater and what is needed in terms of research,
- Sanitation and personal protective practices for wastewater personnel and other WEF resources on operator safety, and
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United States (if released prior to this webcast).
[i] WERF (www.werf.org) reached out to the CDC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and Water Research Foundation (WRF) for research on this issue.