Drinking Water and Wastewater: COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The health and safety of Islanders is the greatest priority. Drinking water utilities continue to operate and sample drinking water supplies in compliance with regulations to provide safe drinking water to Islanders.

Drinking water and wastewater operations are not at risk from COVID-19. The virus is most commonly spread by droplets when a person sneezes or coughs in close contact with another person.

Is there any concern with the transfer of COVID-19 from water or wastewater?

Authorities agree that normal methods of treatment will eliminate COVID-19 from the water supply. 

Many viruses may be present in wastewater naturally. Treatment methods used to remove viruses and other harmful organisms in wastewater are also effective against COVID-19. This includes the application of chlorine or ultra-violet light as well as passive systems like lagoons and wetlands. 

Is drinking tap water safe?

People should continue to use and drink tap water as usual. Utility operators are required to treat public drinking water to remove or kill harmful organisms, including viruses. 

Do I need to boil my drinking water?

Boiling water is not required as a precaution against COVID-19.

I have been away from my cottage or house for a couple of weeks or longer, what should I do with my Plumbing system?

The first thing to do is inspect your entire system – point of entry into house, visible plumbing lines and valves, hot water tank, furnace, all fixtures such as toilets, dishwasher sinks, tubs, etc. to ensure there no obvious break in systems. 

If your cottage or house has been vacant for long periods of time, your plumbing system may have stagnant water in the pipes. It is recommended you flush your system.

How do I flush my system?

Before you flush your system you should remove strainers from all taps.  Next, fully open the tap farthest away from the point of entry into the house. Let the water run at full flow for 10 to 15 minutes.  Repeat this process on all taps in the house including hot and cold water taps working your way to the tap closet to the water supply line.  Ensure while each bathroom tap is running you flush the toilet twice and run the tub/shower tap for 10 minutes.  Finally, allow your dishwasher and clothes washing machine to run their cycles.

Should I test my water?

If you live in subdivision where water is supplied to you, there is no need to test your water.  The system owners are required to test the quality of drinking water routinely. If you have any questions on water quality, you should call your utility.

If you have your own well that supplies water to your house, you should test your water on a yearly basis for bacteria and every three-to-five years for chemistry.You should also test your water if you see any change in its quality, ie. strange colour, taste, smell, etc. 

I am opening up my cottage for the season. What should I do with my plumbing system?

You should inspect and flush your system, as mentioned above.  As well, it is recommended that you disinfect your well and plumbing system.  The process for this can be found at How to Disinfect Your Well.

Finally, you should test your water.  Water sampling collection procedures can be found at Water Sample Collection Procedure.

If you have a larger commercial building or a central water system and would like advice on flushing your water supply system, please contact the numbers below. 

Can I get COVID-19 from wastewater or sewage? 

There is no evidence to date that COVID-19 is transmitted via sewer systems. This includes systems with or without wastewater treatment.

Do wastewater treatment plants treat COVID-19? 

Yes, wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other harmful organisms. COVID-19 is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection. Standard treatment and disinfection processes at wastewater treatment plants are considered effective.

Will my septic system treat COVID-19? 

While decentralized wastewater treatment systems (i.e. septic tanks) do not use disinfection as a treatment method, a properly managed septic system will be able to treat COVID-19. These systems safely manage a variety of viruses often found in wastewater. 

I work for a utility, or I am a septic pumper. What should I do to stay safe?

Utility workers should follow their normal standard operational procedures and hygiene practices:  

  • Wash hands often with soap and water;
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as outerwear, gloves, boots, goggles or a face shield, and a mask when working in areas where exposure to untreated wastewater is possible;
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Stay home if you are unwell

Should I have my septic tank pumped at this time?

During COVID-19, septic pumping should only occur if it is an emergency.  In other words, if sewage is backing up into your home then get the tank pumped.  

If your septic tank is scheduled for pumping as part of routine maintenance, do not have your septic tank pumped until the COVID-19 restrictions are removed. 

Remember, only a licensed Septic Pumper can pump a septic tank. 

Who can I contact for more information?

Ben Lanigan (Drinking Water and Wastewater Supervisor)
Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change
4th Floor, Jones Building
11 Kent Street
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 7N8
Telephone: (902) 368-5043
Fax: (902) 368-5830
Email:  bpklanigan@gov.pe.ca

Morley Foy, P.Eng (Approvals & Compliance Engineer)
Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change
4th Floor, Jones Building
11 Kent Street
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 7N8
Telephone: (902) 368-5036
Fax: (902) 368-5830
Email:  mmfoy@gov.pe.ca

 

Published date: 
May 5, 2020
Environment, Water and Climate Change

General Inquiries

Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change
4th Floor, Jones Building
11 Kent Street
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-5044
Toll-free: 1-866-368-5044
Fax: 902-368-5830
Report an Environmental Concern

DeptEWCC@gov.pe.ca