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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.

Plumbing is Critical Public Health so Avoid Scams by Unlicensed Plumbers Due to COVID-19

Plumbing is Critical Public Health so Avoid Scams by Unlicensed Plumbers Due to COVID-19

Who can work on your plumbing?

With all the uncertainly during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is critical Gold Coast homeowners and businesses don’t fall into the trap of using so-called handymen or unlicensed plumbers. In reality, there is no such occupation categorised as unlicensed plumbers. Every person classified as a plumber is licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.

QBCC licensed plumber Whywait Plumbing Services does not employ unlicensed plumbers
  • All individuals and companies must hold a QBCC licence for any building works that involve any work that is:
  • Plumbing
  • Drainage
  • Gas Fitting

Your plumbing is not a simplistic plaything and worldwide is classified as critical public health infrastructure. All work undertaken on any aspect of your plumbing, drainage or gas infrastructure is legally required to be undertaken by appropriately licensed individuals and companies.

All plumbers frequently experience fixing up after a handyman who makes out that unlicensed plumbers exist and convinces homeowners 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.

Any plumbing, drainage and gasfitting work is essential to ensuring the health and safety of the entire community. This is critically important with the COVIC-19 health pandemic we are currently facing.

Every aspect of the plumbing, drainage and gas trades are administered by a strict licensing and legislative regime. This ensures every person in these trades holds the relative QBCC licences that are legally required. This, in turn, ensures the safety and protection of the entire community through the provision of clean, safe drinking water, sanitary drains and sewers to dispose of wastewater, and gas pipes and appliances that are fit for purpose.

We all agree that using a licensed plumber or gas fitter can appear expensive, but it is an investment that protects your families health. Using an unlicensed plumber can null and void your insurance coverage plus leave you with possible legal and financial implications.

Especially now demand to sight the QBCC licences visually. A QBCC occupational licence enables the person to carry out the work physically. A QBCC contractor licence allows the person to engage in contracting for the work.

Can plumbing work be undertaken by unlicensed plumbers or handymen?

Daniel Mays checking for unlicensed plumbers at Whywait PlumbingListed below is unregulated plumbing work that can be performed by an unlicensed plumber in accordance with the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019. An appropriately licensed plumber must do all other plumbing and drainage work:

  • Replacing a showerhead or shower rose
  • Replacing a domestic water filter cartridge
  • Replacing a jumper valve or washer in a tap
  • Repairing or replacing a drop valve washer, float valve washer or suction cup rubber in a toilet cistern
  • Replacing caps or covers to ground-level inspection openings on a sanitary drain
  • Cleaning or maintaining a ground-level grate for a trap on a sanitary drain
  • Installing or maintaining an irrigation or lawn watering system downstream from a tap, isolating valve or backflow prevention device on the supply pipe for the watering system
  • Repairing or maintaining an irrigation system for the disposal of effluent from a greywater use facility or on-site sewage facility
  • Fire protection work for testing plumbing carried out by a holder of a fire protection occupational licence or another QBCC licence
  • Incidental unskilled tasks such as excavating or backfilling a trench

Many of these tasks are much more complicated than they appear. Mixer taps, for example, can be extremely complicated just to dismantle and technically they have no washer so must always be worked on by a licensed plumber.

Despite social media saying yes you can we can guarantee it is entirely illegal for anyone other than a licensed plumber to install a bidet seat or a douche spray to a toilet.

Checking a plumbers licence

Prior to letting anyone commence work on your plumbing, drainage or gas ask them for their plumbers’ licence as they are legally obliged to produce it for you if requested.

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.

Just remember there is no such occupational listing called unlicensed plumbers in Australia in any state or territory.

COVID-19 Update as Whywait Plumbing Remains Open

COVID-19 Update as Whywait Plumbing Remains Open

Despite everything that is happening with the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic emergency as your local Gold Coast Plumber Whywait Plumbing will continue to be available 24/7 to service your plumbing, drainage and gas needs. The current Queensland Government health directives advise that the plumbing industry is an essential service. This means our plumbers are exempt from the two-person rule when entering homes or private premises provided the appropriate social distancing and hygiene requirements are adhered to. 

To ensure the safety of our clients, staff and the general public we are making changes to the way we serve our clients. This ensures we can still attend to your problems while focusing on making the correct choices to keep everyone safe.

Read the information below which details out everything you need to know how Whywait Plumbing will ensure your critical plumbing infrastructure remains fully functioning.

Whywait is still here for you 24/7

Whywait Plumbing Services has been trusted by thousands of Gold Coast homeowners, landlords and business owners since 1976 to maintain their plumbing, drainage and gas infrastructure. We believe that now more than ever we need to be there for you 24/7.

As your trusted Gold Coast Plumber we guarantee to continue to be available to keep you safe and ensure your plumbing is functioning to the highest standards.

We assure you we have increased our precautionary measures to protect you and minimise any risk of spreading COVID-19. We continue to adhere to all advice from the official Australian Government health website and are monitoring the situation to ensure we take all practical steps to protect our clients and staff.

Working with Whywait Plumbing during COVID-19

Increased hygiene practice

Whywait Plumbing Services use Aquatemp Hand Sanitiser & Disinfectant In accordance with the advice provided by the Australian Government and the Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia (MPMSAA), we have implemented additional policies and hygiene practices to protect you and our plumbers.

  • we are continually ensuring our plumbers are fit and healthy and we are taking all precautions to ensure their health and safety
  • we are following the latest advisories from the Australian Government and MPMSAA
  • we are following social distancing requirements
  • we are not shaking hands
  • our plumbers are wearing disposable gloves and are disposing of them when they have completed their work for you
  • our plumbers are equipped with Enzyme Wizard cleaning products to wipe down tool, equipment and work areas while undertaking your work
  • our cleaners are equipped with Aquatemp Hand Sanitiser & Disinfectant to keep their hands clean at all times
  • our company vehicles are kept clean at all times with Aquatemp Surface Sanitiser & Disinfectant cleaning product

What to expect when you call us to book a job

It is now our policy when booking all jobs that you provide us credit card details to secure the booking because as recommended by the Government, we ask that you make a pre-payment over the phone so that no physical exchange of money has to occur. If you can only pay with cash we will be handling all transactions using gloves and practising social distancing.

We will now ask you a number of health-related questions when you call us to keep everyone safe which may include:

  • Have you, or anyone in your household tested positive for COVID-19, or are awaiting test results?
  • Do you fall into a category where you are self-isolating for COVID-19?
  • Do you, or anyone living in your household have any flu-like symptoms, a fever, cough, or shortness of breath?

Depending on the answers you provided, we will discuss with you on the best way forward to support solving your plumbing problems.

After we have booked your job if you start to develop flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever or shortness of breath, please call us immediately on (07) 5580 4311 so we can help to manage your appointment.

What to expect when a Whywait employee is at your home or business

Upon arrival, our plumbers may be asking the same health questions asked at the time of your booking. This is to ensure your circumstances have not changed. Plus we guarantee they will be following our increased hygiene practices.

While undertaking any work, they will inform you exactly what they will do before they start and will clean all surfaces they touch with Enzyme Wizard cleaning products.

Thank you for your ongoing support and your understanding

You can be certain that we have your best interest in mind during these uncertain times and we are endeavouring to continue to provide the great service that Whywait Plumbing is renowned for as your Gold Coast Plumber.

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