Can we find corona virus in potable water?
At our courses over the past month, more and more people have asked if they should take any corona precautions as regarding the potable water system.
When we work with drinking water offshore, there is plenty of viruses to fight against. Currently, the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not appear to be contaminated by food or drinking water. But that does not mean that it never will.
The enormous impact the corona pandemic has on the entire world community these days is a strong reminder of the consequences of outbreaks of diseases caused by bacteria or viruses. This week came the first notifications of infection on offshore installations. It was really just a matter of time.
Coronavirus is a common term for a group of respiratory viruses that normally transmit from person to person through drip infection, from person to person.
Corona viruses are so-called enveloped viruses. That means that they are generally more infectious, but more susceptible to traditional disinfection, like chlorine and hydrogene peroxide.
According to the Food Safety Authority, the virus SARS-CoV-2, which originated in China in December 2019, causes the outbreak of covid-19 disease. At the beginning of March 2020, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority reports on its website:
Bjørn Tore from Ambio Potable Water explains how different types of microbiological contamination can detoriate potable water quality and the importance how good hygiene when maintenance is performed on the potable water system.
Viruses in water
However, there is a truth with modifications. The coronavirus SARS-CoV, which had a major outbreak in 2003, is an example of an airway virus that can infect from water feces. The fact that SARS-CoV-2 does not yet appear to have the same characteristic is good, but no one knows for sure yet.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, subject to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) says that SARS-CoV-2 has so far not been detected in drinking water or wastewater. However, it is detected sporadically in stools from infected. Therefore, indication of fecal contamination in the potable water (E. coli, coliform bacteria, C. perfringens and intestinal enterococci) must be taken seriously!
There are also many other viruses that thrive quite well in water and which the waterworks manager must have knowledge of in order to supply good and safe drinking water. Examples include: Adonovirus, Enterovirus, Hantavirus, Hepatitis A Virus, Norovirus and Rotavirus.
Viruses in water that originate from pollution of the drainage system are a major problem, especially now in winter. Some viruses (including variants of coronavirus) survive over ten times as long in cold water as in warm water. Norovirus in oysters is an example of this. These are noroviruses that originate from human sewerage systems (feces and vomit) that survive cleansing and end up in the sea where they are absorbed by various molluscs.
Infection from humans
An objective is to prevent all types of contamination of the drinking water system during maintenance work. Pollution from humans to drinking water generally involves a high risk of microbiological contamination. One should always wear disposable gloves – and change them frequently. It is also important to disinfect tools before use.
An additional piece of advice in relation to today’s situation is that people with mild symptoms should not work with the plant. Whether one has planned work in drinking water tanks should be considered postponed until the pandemic is under control.
Lastly: wash your hands often with soap and water!