Don’t worry about your drinking water.
That’s the message from state health officials who are assuring the public the coronavirus has not been detected in drinking water and that the filtration and disinfection methods used by most municipal drinking water systems in Colorado should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We believe our drinking water is safe,” says MaryAnn Nason, spokeswoman for the water quality control division of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.
Long before the recent outbreak, state law has required all public water systems to disinfect water supplies for pathogens, which include the flu and other viruses. Most systems use oxidation with hypochlorite (i.e., chlorine bleach) and peracetic acid, as well as inactivation using UV irradiation.
Nason is aware that Coloradans have been stocking up on bottled water, but says her department “doesn’t want to make assumptions” that they fear water contamination.
“It could be because they just don’t want to have to go out if they want” it, she says.
Two store managers interviewed by The Independent say their customers have expressed fear about drinking water safety. As of Wednesday afternoon, Colorado had reported 27 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“There’s a lot of fear out there. Maybe paranoia,” said the assistant manager of a north Denver King Soopers who asked not to be named.
The water quality division issued a fact sheet today saying there is no evidence the coronavirus can be spread to humans through pools and hot tubs. It is reviewing available data on whether the virus can spread through sewage systems, saying “at this time, the risk…is thought to be low.”
The division is urging wastewater treatment agencies to closely monitor their systems to make sure chlorine levels are not depleted. It also urges those agencies to “ensure workers follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater.”
Possible staffing shortages pose the greatest risks to water and wastewater treatment systems, and the state is encouraging agencies to have contingency plans. We will update this story as needed.