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COVID 19 Guidance for Community Water Systems

How you can prepare now to help reduce the impacts of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) within your Community Water System (CWS)

As you are aware, the coronavirus disease has spread to all states including Alaska. It is very important that water sector professionals keep informed regarding this rapidly evolving situation and take appropriate preparatory and other steps to ensure continued operations and protection of public health. Several resources are available to keep you informed, including the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) Coronavirus webpage

Additional resources specific to the water sector are available from the Water Environment Federation (WEF), including The Water Professional’s Guide

During this situation, CWSs that are required to provide microbial treatment should take appropriate steps to ensure continued operations with a focus on effective treatment for pathogens. This includes properly operated filtration and/or disinfection practices under the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR) and the Groundwater Rule (GWR). It is expected that the treatment technique requirements under these rules will also provide protection against the Coronavirus.

The primary purpose of this web page is to provide you with a framework of resources to evaluate and improve your current preparedness to maintain proper operation of your drinking water system should you experience critical resource shortages.

In order to "self-assess" your preparedness, key personnel are strongly encouraged to consider the following questions and potential action items

  1. Staffing

    How will we continue to provide an adequate quantity of safe drinking water to customers should our primary operator(s) become sick or are quarantined? What alternate operational staff would we rely upon?
    Potential Action Items to Consider:
    • Review your Emergency Response and Operations and Maintenance Plans; make sure the plans are up to date.
    • Review and update your records for existing personnel, including key duties, essential functions and training/certification records. Update contact information and cell phone numbers as needed.
    • Identify any gaps in personnel and assess options for obtaining additional operational staff, such as relocating and training staff from other areas, or seeking additional staff as needed. Consider the benefits of your lead operator conducting training and a plant walk through with alternate staff before an emergency staffing limitation occurs.
    • Well-written standard operating procedures (SOPs) are a critical tool that can enable a properly certified operator from a neighboring system, or inadequately certified staff to temporarily operate your water system should your primary operator(s) become unavailable. Consider the following questions:
      • Where are your SOPs? When were they last reviewed and updated by your lead operator(s)?
      • Do SOPs contain enough detailed information to be used by the alternate staff you plan to rely upon? Who will make decisions regarding who can use these SOPs should your primary operator become unavailable?
      • If your primary operator is quarantined, but well enough to work remotely, do you have a plan in place for them to provide verbal SOPs and guidance to alternate staff onsite at the water treatment plant?
    • In order to reduce transmission of illness amongst your existing water plant personnel, ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies. More information about these recommendations is available from the HSS at the above link.
  2. Essential Treatment Chemicals and Equipment

    What vendor(s) would we contact should our primary vendor(s) not be able to provide essential chemicals and equipment in a timely manner?
    Potential Action Items to Consider:
    • Have you considered that employee absenteeism from other interdependent sectors such as transportation, shipping, industrial equipment, chemical manufacturers and suppliers may limit and/or delay your ability to obtain essential operational supplies?
    • Review and assess your inventory of essential treatment chemicals. Do you have an adequate supply of treatment chemicals onsite to maintain treatment processes if shipping or other situations delay delivery of treatment chemicals? Do you have up-to-date contact information for an alternate chemical supplier? Verify if this alternate supplier’s current product list includes the NSF-approved chemicals which you rely upon.
    • Review and assess your inventory of essential plant equipment (e.g. chemical feed pumps). Are adequate backup chemical feed pumps, rebuild kits, and/or spare parts currently on site?
    • If a vendor is unable to provide a critical component for a pump, would a nearby water system have a spare? If your community is a member of a Native Health Corporation, do you have up to date contacts for the Health Corporation Office of Environmental Health and Remote Maintenance Worker assigned to your system?
    • Check your inventory and expiration dates of sampling consumables (e.g. sampling reagents, bottles, etc.). How long would your current supply of sampling consumables last? Attempt to identify an alternate vendor that may be able to provide specific consumables necessary for compliance monitoring samples.
    • Consider ordering additional supplies of treatment chemicals and reagents, keeping in mind the shelf-life and expiration dates of existing stock and any additional quantities you purchase.
    • Are key staff with purchasing capability available to make purchases during afterhours or weekend emergencies? Has the board provided prior approval for emergency purchases of supplies, chemicals and equipment?
  3. Laboratory Testing

    If our primary water quality testing laboratory cannot accommodate our samples, what alternate lab would we use?
    Potential Action Items to Consider:
    • Similar to item #2 above, have you considered that employee absenteeism or supply chain shortages at your preferred water quality testing laboratory may temporarily limit their ability to process your routine compliance samples?
    • Consider identifying an alternate lab that is properly accredited to meet your specific water quality sampling needs.
    • Here are links to the Certified Micro Labs and Certified Chem Labs
  4. Notification

    If we experience a breakdown in treatment or operations, will we be able to notify the DWP and customers in a timely manner?
    Potential Action Items to Consider:
    • It is very important to note that public water systems must contact the Drinking Water Program within four hours of discovering circumstances which may affect water quality or quantity. This includes a failure, significant interruption or breakdown in key water treatment processes or a lack of resources that adversely affect operations, such as staff shortages, notification by the power utility of planned lengthy power outages or imminent depletion of treatment chemical inventories.
    • Contact Information:
      Anchorage DEC Office
      555 Cordova Street
      Anchorage, AK 99501
      Compliance Contact: 269-7619
      Engineering Contact: 269-7631
      Fairbanks DEC Office
      610 University Ave.
      Fairbanks, AK 99709
      Compliance Contact: 451-2168
      Engineering Contact: 451-5193
      Soldotna DEC Office
      43335 K-Beach Road, Suite 11
      Soldotna, AK 99669
      Compliance Contact: 907-262-3404
      Engineering Contact: 907-262-3417
      Wasilla DEC Office
      1700 E. Bogard Road
      Building B, Suite 103
      Wasilla, AK 99654
      Compliance Contact: 907-376-1861
      Engineering Contact: 907-262-3417
    You can also contact us at the emergency number: 907-451-2138 or at cindy.christian@alaska.gov
    Thank you for your time and attention on this very important matter.

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