Implications of SARS-CoV-2 on current and future operation and management of wastewater systems

Rasha Maal-Bared, Kari Brisolara, Naoko Munakata, Kyle Bibby, Charles Gerba, Mark Sobsey, Scott Schaefer, Jay Swift, Lee Gary, Samendra Sherchan, Akin Babatola, Robert Bastian, Lola Olabode, Robert Reimers, Albert Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


While researchers have acknowledged the potential role of environmental scientists, engineers, and industrial hygienists during this pandemic, the role of the water utility professional is often overlooked. The wastewater sector is critical to public health protection and employs collection and treatment system workers who perform tasks with high potential for exposures to biological agents. While various technical guidances and reports have initially provided direction to the water sector, the rapidly growing body of research publications necessitates the constant review of these papers and data synthesis. This paper presents the latest findings and highlights their implications from a water and wastewater utility operation and management perspective. Practitioner points: Extrapolation from SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, as well as other surrogates, has helped predicting SARS-CoV-2 behavior and risk management. Data from treated wastewater effluent suggest that current processes are sufficient for SARS-CoV-2 control. Scientific evidence supports the possibility of fecal–oral transmission for SARS-CoV-2. Limited evidence supports the potential survival of infective SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces and in aerosols and the efficacy of control measures at reducing transmission. Protective practices and PPE can protect workers from SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens found in wastewater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-515
Number of pages14
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • coronavirus
  • occupational health
  • virus
  • wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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