Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Your wastewater is one of the key sources used to identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in your local community because plumbing is public health

COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for every level of government in Australia. The pandemic has reiterated that plumbing is all about public health. With vaccination rates being hailed as our pathway back to the new normality, we need politicians and bureaucrats to embrace that plumbing protects the entire community and individually plumbers preserve the nation’s health.

A pivotal component in managing COVID-19 is establishing where transmission of the virus occurs. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the identification of exposure sites by health authorities and the requirement for people who were at the same areas during the same time to monitor for symptoms or get tested themselves have been a ceaseless part of the public health response.

Wastewater testing has been crucial for health departments to identify where COVID-19 may be present in the community to help to stop the spread.

Wastewater or the used water from toilets, sinks, showers, baths, basins and dishwashers are analysed and tested for fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Fragments of the virus potentially enter the wastewater system through people who have or have recently had COVID-19. People shed the virus fragments through toilet paper, used tissues, off their hands and skin or in faeces. This shedding can continue for weeks after a person is infectious.

“The COVID-19 virus, SARS-Cov-2, can enter wastewater infrastructure through any of those means. However, it is likely to enter wastewater principally from faecal and respiratory shedding. Shed virus is then detected by analysing the wastewater using analytical methods that are specific for SARS-CoV-2,” says Dr Nick Crosbie, Recycled Water and IWM Research Manager at Melbourne Water.

“Wastewater monitoring is equivalent to obtaining and analysing a large community-based composite sample of faeces, saliva, vomit, sputum, urine, shed skin and other material shed during personal cleansing, washing, bathing, and excreting.”

Throughout Australia, wastewater samples are taken from wastewater treatment plants, regional wastewater treatment plants and multiple locations throughout any metropolitan sewerage system.

Dr Crosbie describes surveillance as dynamic, adjusting it to meet changing needs such as surge testing during outbreaks.

“Samples are obtained by ‘grab sampling’, auto-sampling, and by the deployment of so-called ‘passive samplers’ which accumulate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the period of their deployment. Between a few 100 to more than 1,000 samples are collected and processed in a seven-day period. The samples are analysed of the passive samplers with presumptive detections confirmed by third-party analysis.”

Wastewater testing has come to public prominence during the pandemic, although it has been regularly undertaken worldwide to monitor poliovirus, norovirus and adenovirus for close to twenty years.

Dr Crosbie says the public identification of locations in which viral fragments are identified in wastewater – announced by the Department of Health regularly, including sending text messages to people in affected postcodes – allows health authorities to target their responses.

“Information can be used by health departments to focus their investigations further and to encourage an increase in local clinical testing rates,” he says.

The role of plumbers in effective wastewater testing is critical. The provision of safe and effective plumbing and sanitation illustrates how plumbers contribute to strengthening public health. Master Plumbers CEO Peter Daly is unequivocal in stating that “Plumbers play a vital role in developing, maintaining and promoting public health among the community. Plumbers prevent against disease and illness stemming from poor plumbing and sanitation and against the dangers of unsafe gas appliances, some of which can be deadly. Our day to day work in plumbing and sanitation also supports the overall wastewater testing process to play a big role in the COVID-19 response.”

Dr Crosbie agrees, “the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is a huge team effort between people working in the plumbing industry, water industry, and the laboratory and health sectors,” he says.

Dr Crosbie understands that plumbing is public health, “More generally, the safe operation of our water and wastewater infrastructure ensures that the community do not suffer from significant health effects from water and wastewater-borne diseases.”

The World Health Organisation and leading doctors state that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. Despite the tremendous medical breakthroughs and scientific advances, the seemingly mundane advance of reliable sewage and reliable, clean water supply is the most significant medical advance over the last 200 years.

It is Illegal to Install a Douche Spray or Bidet Spray

It is Illegal to Install a Douche Spray or Bidet Spray

It is illegal to install a douche spray or bidet spray in Queensland unless it complies with AS/NZS 3500.1:2018 clause 12.2.3 below which classifies bidet toilet seats and douche sprays at toilet seat douches. 12.2.3 Toilet seat douches – Where the douche outlet, in all positions, is at least 25 mm above the overflow level of the pan, backflow prevention is not required. Where the douche outlet, in any position, is less than 25 mm above the overflow of the pan, a high-hazard backflow prevention device, conforming to AS/NZS 2845.1 or AS 2845.2, shall be installed. This device shall be either part of the douche or installed separately. It is illegal to install a douche spray or bidet spray in Queensland unless it complies with AS/NZS 3500.1:2018 clause 12.2.3 contact Whywait Plumbing for a legal installationIt is entirely illegal to undertake a DIY installation of douche spray or bidet spray despite what you may read on social media. Yes, they can be legally installed by a plumber provided they are installed with compliant backflow prevention valves and registered with Form 9 at City of Gold Coast or Logan City Council plus lodgement of Form 4 with Queensland Building and Construction Commission. These requirements are not optional; they are required under law as per the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.

Illegal bidet seat attachments

Unfortunately, there are advertisements everywhere on social media or websites promoting DIY such as My Bidet Australia. The product they advertise as an easy install toilet seat bidet is illegal. They promote on their website as – Quick and Easy Installation: Includes everything you need including tools to get your bidet up and running in minutes. Easily attaches to and detaches from any standard two-piece toilet. illegal toilet seat bidet from https://www.mybidetaustralia.com.au/bidet-australia which Whywait Plumbing would never installThe reality is the product has no WaterMark certification. As the photo illustrates clearly on their website, the dual nozzles are deep inside the toilet bowl, creating a high backflow risk. This is categorised as high risk as back-siphonage can occur through these nozzles allowing contaminated water from the toilet bowl to be sucked into the potable or drinking water supply. The toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia sells online for $99, which is an indication of its quality. The price should be a warning enough as to how good this product is likely to be as good quality WaterMark approved bidet seats such as a Toto Washlet start at around $1199.00 in Australia. The old saying you get what you pay for applies absolutely for this dangerous product. It is frightening that they state on their website – Upgrade your bathroom with beautifully designed bidet attachments, featuring water pressure control knobs. We use high-quality parts that are built to last. They are constructed with high-pressure faucet quality valves and metal/ceramic core. Common sense dictates you cannot produce high quality for $99 that complies with Australian Standards. Unfortunately, this product is being advertised everywhere on Facebook and Google. Currently, if you do a Google search for a Toto bidet seat the first result in Google AdWords is incredibly for not Toto but My Bidet Australia. It truly is a case of buyer beware and why you need to check it is approved for use in Australia with a WaterMark certification. An illegal toilet seat bidet or Douche Spray or Bidet Spray can kill you so call Whywait Plumbing today

What does backflow mean?

Backflow is simply the reverse flow of water. When we refer to it in plumbing terms, it is stopping contaminated water being drawn back into the water supply system that we all use for drinking. In terms of an illegally installed douche spray or bidet spray, this can occur when the water pressure drops significantly. If nozzles or sprays connected to the water supply are in contact with a contaminated water supply in a toilet, there is potential for that contaminated water to be sucked into the drinking water supply. In simple terms, it is like you sucking on a straw. There are two ways that backflow contamination will occur because of a water pressure drop:

  • Back-pressure occurs if there is an increase in the downstream pressure, which creates a reversal of the normal direction of the water flow.
  • Back-siphonage occurs when there is a drop in the supply pressure, thereby creating a negative pressure situation in the water supply. Commonly this will happen if the water is suddenly turned off or there is a dramatic increase in demand such as water used for fire fighting.

With a bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray backflow contamination is possible and if occurring it is classified as high risk. This is why all of these products by law must be:

  • installed by a licensed plumber
  • have WaterMark certification
  • have a testable backflow valve installed such as an RPZ valve
  • have a Form 4 lodged with QBCC
  • have a form 9 lodged with the local water authority

All of the above are requirements under the law; they are not optional extras.

What does high hazard mean?

High hazard is the highest rated hazard in the cross-connection hazard rating in AS/NZS 3500.1-2018, which is covered in Section 4 Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention. As Licensed Plumbers, we know how serious this section is in ensuring that our drinking water is not contaminated and potentially life-threatening. Clause 4.3 below lists all three ratings: 4.3 CROSS-CONNECTION HAZARD RATING Cross-connections are rated using three degrees of hazard, as follows: (a)      High hazard     Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to cause death. (b)      Medium hazard    Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to endanger health. (c)       Low hazard     Any condition, device or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, constitutes a nuisance but does not endanger health or cause injury. The high hazard rating is not a scare tactic when we talk about an illegal or a non-compliant bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray it is a health issue with the critical wording being potential to cause death. As Plumbers, we are not over sensationalising the dangers of DIY installation of a bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray. We are just telling you this is the legal requirements as per the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.

Can a DIY installation effect insurance policies?

Yes, any plumbing fixture installed in your home or business can null and void your home and contents insurance policies. Any bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray that is not installed by a Licensed Plumber or does not have WaterMark certification has the potential to flood your home. A burst flexihose on these dodgy products can flood your home very quickly.

ACCC and Government warnings

We all understand that COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty and angst, but a DIY installation of a toilet bidet seat or douche spray or bidet spray is merely breaking the law. DIY of any plumbing fixture has potentially dire consequences, and with products such as the toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia, you are risking severe illness or death.

It has become so intense of a concern that the Australian Consumer Competition Commission (ACCC) has issued an alert concerning the supply and installation of bidet products. The ACCC, in consultation with the ABCB or Australian Building Codes Board and Standards Australia, has published a joint warning, COVID-19: Supplying and installing bidet products on the Product Safety Australia website.

The ACCC, the ABCB and every state government has become alarmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in the purchase of toilet seat bidet douches, handheld bidet sprays and trigger sprays, and other bidet type products that are connected to toilet water supply valve are being installed as a DIY project. The critical message of every alert issued by every state government is that the installation of any bidet product connected to the drinking water supply must be undertaken by a licensed plumber and must hold WaterMark certification.
DIY installations of bidet seats and douche sprays

DIY installations of bidet seats and douche sprays

The DIY installation of a bidet seat or a douche spray is illegal. The health risk of incorrectly installed bidet seats or douche sprays can be severe not only to you but to the community as a whole. In the last month, Google searches for the term bidets have increased tenfold, which is frightening as traditionally Australians have shunned the installation of bidets. The increase in Google searches has occurred due to multiple social media posts and newspaper articles on so-called alternative toileting devices and what is appallingly lousy advice on their installation.

The multitude of bidet seats and douche sprays that can now be found for sale online has set off alarm bells at all levels of government in Australia. It is evident when checking the scant information available online that very few of these online products have been tested and approved for use in Australia.

Hardware stores and specialist plumbing suppliers that stock douche spray kits are selling them out as fast as stock arrives to DIY enthusiasts who get installation advice from shop assistants. This just increases the health risks tenfold. There have been reports of staff in plumbing supply stores being abused for refusing to advise on how to install bidet seats or douche spray kits and suggesting that a licensed plumber must install these products.

Whywait Plumbing can legally install a douche spray to your toilet to protect your families healthAs a result, here in Queensland the QBCC has issued a public warning on the sale and installation of ‘alternative toileting devices’ which in part states:

This is a warning issued by the Commissioner of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) to the public under section 20J(1)(i) of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act).

The QBCC warns suppliers and the public about the sale and use of potentially non-conforming building products, namely Do It Yourself (DIY) bidets, douche sprays and similar hygiene devices, collectively known as ‘alternative toileting devices’.

The QBCC has recently become aware of the sale and DIY installation of alternative toileting devices in Queensland, particularly for household use. Unless these devices are manufactured to comply with Australian Standards and also are properly installed, these can lead to a risk of contaminating the household water supply with E. coli bacteria. An E. coli infection can lead to serious health and safety issues.

In Queensland, alternative toileting devices must be installed by a licensed plumber who has the skills and qualifications to ensure that a backflow prevention device is in place.

Whywait plumbing only install WaterMark certified bidet seatsA bidet seat or a douche spray are classified as high hazard plumbing products. This is because there is a high risk of toilet sewage water mixing with your drinking water if they are not installed as per the requirements of section 12 of AS/NZS 3500.1-2018 Water Services. They must be legally certified with an Australian WaterMark approval which is evident on the packaging plus can be searched online at the WaterMark Product Database.

Despite looking easy to install, they are not. Both a bidet seat and a douche spray require a water connection. Generally, this can be at the water connection for the toilet cistern. However, this always requires a legally compliant backflow prevention device to be installed as well. This is not an optional extra it is the law to prevent your drinking water from becoming contaminated, which pose serious risks to your families health and safety.

If you have recently undertaken a DIY installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then we urge you to call us on (07) 5580 4311 to get us to check it is a compliant installation. This ensures you have not created a risk to your families health and safety plus ensures you have not null and voided your homes insurance policies.

You need to be aware of so-called unlicensed plumbers or handyman who cannot legally install a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet. Beware of the handyman who tries to convince you that he can undertake plumbing works as long as it’s under $3300 of value. This is a complete lie by opportunistic unlicensed scammers who put your families health at risk. The benchmark value for undertaking plumbing, drainage or gas work is $0 and always has been. For extra assurance go the QBCC website  To find out more about a licensee you can use their online licensee search, or search their occupational licence.

If you would like to investigate the installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then call us on (07) 5580 4311 to book an appointment. This ensures the installation is compliant with Queensland law as all products we install have appropriate and genuine Watermark certification.

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