Disposal of Ebola-related Waste into Public Waste Water Systems

Press Release
Press Release

As part of NLC's on-going efforts to provide cities with access to Ebola virus information, NLC is pleased to share the following information on how to properly dispose of Ebola-related waste into public waste water systems. As you will learn, waste water facilities are able to process Ebola-related waste without any difficulty.

Earlier this week, the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) distributed the following document to its members.  The purpose of the memo was to inform them that disposing of Ebola-related waste in public waste water systems was safe and proper.  However, no comparable information was made available on how to protect waste water operations specialists and employees.

Over the next days and weeks, depending on the outcome of efforts to contain the Ebola virus, some of you may receive questions from your residents about the safety of the water supply. The following information will be useful to you in the event you are required to respond to questions about the disposal of Ebola-related waste into public waste water systems. This information can also help dispel fears among the public or explain why certain actions should be taken.

What follows is the somewhat altered text of the NRWA memo.  However, all of the links to additional documents were retained and links are provided to the CDC and NRWA.

Disposal of Ebola-related Waste into Public Waste Water Systems:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends disposal of Ebola related waste to public waste water systems (see below). The CDC does not have guidance for waste water operations specialists and employees related specifically to Ebola. The CDC and the World Health Organization conclude that Ebola is not a food borne, waterborne or airborne illness, it is [only] transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids and Ebola infected cells don't live long in water because the cells are not in the same salt concentration as bodily fluids.

On October 13, 2014, the CDC indicated it is reconsidering its approach to decontamination and equipment procedures for all health workers (see article below). NRWA is in contact with the CDC and the U.S. EPA regarding any additional guidance for waste water or drinking water employees, and will be distributing all related guidance.

CDC Guidance on Safety of Ebola and Sanitation Systems:

* "Sanitary sewers may be used for the safe disposal of patient waste. Additionally, sewage handling processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion, composting, and disinfection) in the United States are designed to inactivate infectious agents." Interim Guidance for Environmental Infection Control in Hospitals for Ebola Virus, August 1, 2014, CDC, August 1, 2014, CDC.

* "For equipment that drains directly into the sewer system, the United States sanitary sewer system handling processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion, composting, disinfection) are designed to safely inactivate infectious agents." Interim Guidance for Specimen Collection, Transport, Testing, and Submission for Persons Under Investigation for Ebola Virus Disease in the United States , October 6, 2014, CDC.

It is also important to remember that:

* According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is not a food borne, water borne, or air borne illness;
* Ebola spreads in human populations through human-to-human transmission, through direct contact with infected bodily fluids including blood, vomit, or feces; and
* Ebola can’t survive in drinking water and therefore cannot spread in water because Ebola infected cells don't live long inside a liquid that doesn't have the same salt concentration as bodily fluids.

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