As of this writing (March 15, 2020), coronavirus cases have topped 125,000 globally.
As you might guess—as we’re in the business of safely managing, transporting, and storing hazardous materials—our experts are being asked a lot of questions about what to do with wastes generated by people who might (or mightn’t ) have the coronavirus disease.
Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you probably can just keep calm and carry on. But do so carefully—and with due diligence.
General considerations. To date there are no additional requirements in the United States for management of wastewater generated in the care of persons known to have COVID-19, or who are “persons under investigation” (PUIs) for having contracted it.
This is because coronaviruses are vulnerable to the same antiseptic practices and disinfectants as other viruses. Thereby, common disinfection practices currently used in wastewater treatment facilities are expected to be sufficient. This includes such common procedures as:
- Oxidation with hypochlorite (e.g., disinfection with chlorine bleach)
- Disinfecting with peracetic acid (an antimicrobial)
- Inactivation using UV irradiation (killing the virus by altering its DNA)
Employee safety. To date there is no evidence that employees of wastewater plants require any additional protections relative to the coronavirus.
They should use standard practices including basic hygiene precautions and wear the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE): goggles, face masks or splash-proof face shields, liquid-repellant coveralls, waterproof gloves, and rubber boots.
Per the CDC, medical waste originating from healthcare facilities that treat coronavirus patients doesn’t require extraordinary disinfection and needn’t be treated differently. Management of laundry, food-service utensils, and medical waste should be performed in accordance with routine antiseptic procedures.
Basic hygiene precautions for sewage & wastewater workers1
- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling human waste or sewage.
- Avoid touching face, mouth, eyes, nose, or open sores and cuts while handling human waste or sewage.
- After handling human waste or sewage, wash your hands with soap and water before eating or drinking.
- After handling human waste or sewage, wash your hands with soap and water before and after using the toilet.
- Before eating, removed soiled work clothes and eat in designated areas away from human waste and sewage-handling activities.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco or gum while handling human waste or sewage.
- Keep open sores, cuts, and wounds covered with clean, dry bandages.
- Gently flush eyes with safe water if human waste or sewage contacts eyes.
- Use waterproof gloves to prevent cuts and contact with human waste or sewage.
- Wear rubber boots at the worksite and during transport of human waste or sewage.
- Remove rubber boots and work clothes before leaving worksite.
- Clean contaminated work clothing daily with 0.05% chlorine solution (1-part household bleach to 100-parts water).
1Per the Centers for Disease ControlWastewater Management
There are no additional packaging or transportation requirements from the Department of Transportation (DOT) for regulated medical waste or sharps. The usual DOT rules prevail.
Curbside garbage pickup
Many cities are asking that PUIs in self-quarantine line trash-collection bins with double bags and not bring them to the curb for collection until the self-quarantine period has expired. Disposable cloths, tissues, and masks should be further separated inside double bags.
Make sure that the bin cannot be gotten into by children, pets, or wild animals.
If the person is determined to be free of the coronavirus, then the bin and all its contents can be brought to the curb for collection per usual.
In the unfortunate case where the person is proven to have contracted the virus, one should seek advice from a medical professional about what to do with the garbage, and not just bring it to the curb without further guidance.
The coronavirus will increase the need for remediation and decontamination of interior surfaces in places of business and other public spaces. This isn’t something that can be accomplished solely with some Clorox® and a lot of elbow grease. Some other considerations, just to mention a few:
- Type of HVAC system in place
- Ductwork design
- Traffic patterns
- Main ingress & egress areas
You should get expert advice now in the event that your workspace becomes contaminated with the coronavirus. Planning ahead helps ensure the speediest and most efficient remediation and decontamination, getting you up-and-running as quickly as possible.
Contact us today (888) 681-8923
Hazardous Waste Experts’ nationwide response teams are expert at site cleanup, hazardous and infectious waste management, disposal services, emergency and after-hours response, and virtually any other exigency having to do with workplace contamination. For more information call us at (888) 681-8923.
The featured image used in this post is from the US Department of State and can be found here.