Water

COVID-19: ‘Miniscule traces’ of novel coronavirus found in Paris’ non-potable water

It is essential that wastewater and sewage workers should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment for work tasks

 
By Rashmi Verma
Published: Monday 20 April 2020
A bridge over the Seine in Paris. Photo: Pixabay

‘Miniscule traces’ of the novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, have been found in Paris’ non-potable water supply, according to a report by the city's water authority, released on April 12, 2020.

The authority tested multiple non-potable water samples in their laboratory. Out of the 27 samples that had been tested, small amounts of the virus were found in four samples.

Based on this information, Paris officials have called for an immediate shutdown of the network through which non-potable water is supplied to the city.

However, officials were at pains to stress that the supply sources of non-potable water and potable water to the city were completely different and that drinking water was completely safe.

Paris’ non-potable water is drawn from the Seine river and the Ourcq canal, according to the authority’s report. This non-potable water is used for cleaning streets, watering the city’s parks and gardens and used in ornamental public fountains.

The reason for the presence of the virus in the non-potable water was not clear, the report said, and needed further investigation.

France has been heavily impacted by the global novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and has been on lockdown since March 17. So far, over one lakh COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the country.

President Emmanuel Macron had announced the extension of lockdown in France till May 11, last week. Paris authorities will be consulting the regional health agency and conduct a risk analysis to decide further steps, the report said.

The risk of transmission of SARS-COV-2 through wastewater systems is thought to be low, according to a statement of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in early April 2020.

Although transmission of SARS-COV-2 through sewage might be possible, there was no evidence to date that this had occurred, the statement had added.

However, the Paris Water Authority report changes all that. It is not particularly surprising as there is a precedent of transmission through wastewater. The coronavirus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak had been detected in untreated sewage for up to 14 days.

The current report by the authority raises questions about the efficacy of the standard municipal wastewater system of chlorination practices and suggests it may not be sufficient to inactivate coronaviruses.

Considering the current report, it is essential that wastewater and sewage workers should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment for work tasks. 

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