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.

Your plumbing hates you! All homeowners find this out eventually

Your plumbing hates you! All homeowners find this out eventually

Your plumbing hates you! It’s a fact.

Your plumbing hates you because you show no respect for your plumbing systems. You routinely do hideously disgusting things to it, with it and into it.

You routinely ignore the needs of your plumbing systems to be given some tender loving care. You just assume your plumbing will always work for you as you desire.

Your plumbing literally sees you at your worst. As a consequence, it’s always plotting revenge on you. Those gurgling sounds you sometimes hear when you flush the toilet is your plumbing waiting for the right moment to strike back in revenge.

The favourite time for your plumbing to strike back with a lethal attack is at Christmas or Easter when plumbers are scarce and have to charge expensive call-out rates.

That gurgling sound you hear when you flush the toilet is liquid evil

The most mistreated plumbing fixtures in any home are the toilet and kitchen sink. The toilet is the most abused plumbing fixture as it’s considered a receptacle to dispose of anything and everything.

Describing gurgling sounds as liquid evil is a perfect description. The photo below illustrates perfectly why paper towels should not be thrown into the toilet.

Paper towels as you can see are not designed to be flushed down a toilet. Paper towels are not designed to enter your sewer drains. If you choose to flush paper towels into your toilet the photo below perfectly illustrates why your plumbing hates you.
As you can see the plumbing systems had the ultimate revenge for the lack of respect. In this instant, the paper towels work their way through to the manhole and blocked the entire sewer drainage system.

The paper towels will frequently block your toilet pan but they can flush through into the sewer drain where they will slowly go down the drain until they jam against a junction or a point where flow is restricted such as in a manhole.

From there on the whole plumbing system will grind to a halt as the water from every drainage point in your house fills up the sewer drains.

Foreign objects that cause a blocked toilet are flushable wipes, paper towels, facial tissues, cotton tips, Q-tips, cotton buds, ear cleaners, hair removal wax strips, cotton balls, pantie liners, sanitary napkins and our old favourite of children’s toys.

Gurgling drains don’t clear themselves ever!

If your main sewer drains block, it doesn’t take long for your homes toilets and internal drains to begin to back up.

Hopefully, your overflow relief gully works correctly, and the sewage overflows into your garden rather than inside your house. Either way, it’s messy and yucky having to clean up sewage that has overflowed.

Blocked drains, whether backed up or overflowing, are not only inconvenient but can also pose a risk to your health.

Gurgling drains, smelly drains or slow draining sinks are all signs that your blocked drains need urgent attention.

Plumbing problems are confronting

Solving plumbing problems can be a challenge for us as plumbers and you as a client. The reality is solving plumbing problems takes time, patience and, above all, experience.

Google searches do not make you into an instant plumber. In our experience, a Google diagnosis is generally wrong.

Regretfully many people associate plumbers with unpleasant events that they have experienced with their plumbing, such as a burst pipe or overflowing sewage that flooded their house.

Due to the emergency type situations that most people call a plumber out for, there are numerous misconceptions about what a plumber can do and cannot do quickly. In too many circumstances, this is aligned to the cost rather than the outcome which seldom solves the problem.

Your plumbing hates you since you have a lot of plumbing infrastructure 

Bear in mind you have considerable plumbing infrastructure that is out of sight and consequently out of mind. That is until it stops functioning.

The reality is 90% of your plumbing infrastructure is concealed in walls, under your floor, in your roof space or underground outside.

Below the photo of sewer drains, we installed at Southport Sharks illustrates what we face as plumbers when diagnosing your plumbing problems.

The sewer drains inside your house under the floor once installed are inaccessible as they are covered by concrete. To repair the drains is a significant cost in just accessing them coupled with rectification and then replacing the concrete.

sewer drains at Southport Sharks installed by Whywait Plumbing illustrate why your plumbing hates you
Maintaining your plumbing infrastructure is an investment. In our experience, most unforeseen problems with your plumbing originate from when your home was originally constructed. As I’ve said many times these days, in reality, all buildings are constructed to a cost, not to the legal, regulatory standards of the National Construction Code (NCC) administered by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB).

The photo below illustrates how much work we have undertaken to repair broken sewer drains under your concrete floor. In this instance the work required was:

  • locate by CCTV drain camera the exact location of the broken pipes
  • cut the concrete slab with a quick-cut demolition saw
  • remove the slabs of concrete and dispose of off-site
  • excavate by hand to expose the sewer drain pipes
  • cut and remove the broken and crushed sections of the PVC sewer drain
  • install new PVC pipes with flexible joints
  • test the drain to ensure there were no leaks and it was fully functional
  • backfill and compact the excavation
  • drill into the concrete slab to install reinforcing steel to tie the replacement concrete to the existing slab
  • install a replacement concrete slab
your plumbing hates you until Whywait Plumbing repair the drain

Concealed plumbing infrastructure will always be expensive to repair

We understand how you can feel that your plumbing hates you when we have to undertake major work to repair plumbing infrastructure that is concealed in walls or under your concrete floor.

From our perspective, we know we are delivering bad news that you don’t want to hear. The frustrating thing is that you frequently don’t see all the work that goes into repairing a broken sewer drain as by the time we are finished there is literally nothing to see. The video below illustrates perfectly the repairs we undertook on a drain under a 50 year old stone wall and when completed you would never have known we had been there.

Proactive prevention is preferable to a reactive emergency

There will always be unplanned plumbing emergencies that you can never foresee. That is a simple fact of life.

But proactive preventative maintenance can eliminate the majority of potential plumbing emergencies.

This is why we recommend our Service Partner Plan© to all our clients. The annual audit is focused on locating potential problems before they occur.

Enquire today how you can simply be signed up to get extra benefits and service advantages in managing your properties plumbing, drainage, roofing and gas infrastructure.

service partner plan from Whywait Plumbing
Whywait Plumbing are Master Plumbers
How much should a plumbers call-out fee cost?

How much should a plumbers call-out fee cost?

What is a plumbers call-out fee?

A plumbers call-out fee is a set amount charged by a plumbing business to come to your home or business.

The call-out fee covers all of the costs incurred for the time it takes to arrive. The call-out fee covers employee costs, vehicle costs and business overhead costs.

Generally, for those businesses that charge call-out fees, the call-out fee only allows for arriving at your home or business. It does not allow for any investigation work of your plumbing problem.

What is a plumbing diagnostic evaluation fee?

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we do not charge a plumbers call-out fee to merely arrive at your home or business.

Since 1999 we have charged on every job we are called out to a diagnostic evaluation fee. This fee we require to be paid by credit card when you book your job in with us.

When you call us, we guarantee that we inform you of our initial upfront fault finding/investigation diagnostic evaluation fee and what that fee is.

Once you are happy to accept our diagnostic pricing, we’ll secure your booking by providing your credit card to cover the initial fault finding/investigation diagnostic evaluation fee.

What is the difference between a call-out fee & a diagnostic evaluation fee?

Plumbing companies that charge a call-out fee use it to cover the cost for the journey for a plumber to arrive at your home or business.

Plumbing companies that charge a diagnostic evaluation fee cover the initial journey cost plus the cost to inspect your plumbing problems, diagnose the cause of the problem and provide fully costed solutions.

No call-out fee plumbers

Some plumbing companies heavily advertise that they have a no call-out fee. It may sound good for budget-minded potential customers but…..I guarantee you will end up paying the plumbers call-out fee anyway.

Remember if something is FREE, it has no value to the plumbing business offering it or to the customer receiving it. No call-0ut fee plumbing businesses simply transfer the costs of getting to the job in their other costs plus a margin so either way you pay.

The perception that advertising a no-call out fee creates is that you are getting something for free, as they will be cheaper. Perception is never reality as no business can work for free.

Think about it, would you go to work for free?

What you should ask about a plumbers call-out fee?

Always ask on the phone what is their call-out fee and what does it include. Many plumbing businesses not only have a call-out fee but an additional minimum charge for their time.

Clear communication is paramount to avoiding disputes. Be very clear in your own mind exactly what the plumber will charge you to arrive at your home or business and investigate what work is required.

Why do call-out fees vary so much?

Contrary to popular urban myths, there is no such thing as a set rate or recommended rate or the going rate for a plumbers call-out fee.

Every plumbing business is not the same. Every plumbing business has different employee costs, overhead costs and productivity levels that are required to set a call-out fee or diagnostic evaluation fee. 

It is illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for business to collude in setting prices. The Act aims to give all businesses a fair and competitive operating environment. It covers anti-competitive conduct, price-fixing, unconscionable conduct and numerous other issues, such as advertising. The Act also sets out consumers’ rights and responsibilities.

It is also illegal under the Act for there to be any set or recommended rates by master plumbers associations.

Other factors that influence call-out fees are the type of service required and the time of day and which day. Major variances will occur if you require plumbing service at night, on weekends or on public holidays.

So how much should a plumbers call-out fee be?

Reality is asking how much should a plumbers call-out fee be is akin to asking how long a piece of string is.

Remember, there are no recommended call-out fee rates as every business has to determine what they charge.

As a rough guide in my experience, a basic plumbers call-out fee during normal weekday working hours will vary from $0 to $150 to simply arrive on the job. For an emergency plumbing call-out, the costs increase dramatically and you can expect to pay between $150 and $500.

I can only reiterate that you need to be very clear in your own mind exactly what the plumber will charge you to arrive at your home or business and investigate what work is required. 

Rights and responsibilities

Both the plumber and the customer have rights and responsibilities. Sadly there is a culture of mutual distrust between customers and plumbers with each being wary of being ripped off by the other.

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we aim to be always upfront with our pricing starting with our initial plumbers call-out fee or diagnostic fee. When we ask you to pay for that diagnostic fee upfront by credit card, we are both making a commitment from the beginning.

We guarantee and disclose our diagnostic fee up front and provide an upfront fixed price guarantee for all residential, domestic clients. There is no game playing, our clients are always informed of costs upfront, and there are never any hidden costs or nasty surprises.

Are these tiny flies coming out of my bathroom drains drain flies?

Are these tiny flies coming out of my bathroom drains drain flies?

Yes the tiny flies in your bathroom are drain flies

Last week Lynette, who is one of our Service Partner clients, sent me a photo of her bathroom floor enquiring whether I knew if these tiny flies seemingly coming out of her bathroom drains were drain flies. My simple reply was yes as they are more prolific in spring and summer when temperatures exceed 20°C.

The photo above is dramatically magnified to illustrate the number of drain flies in a small area.

Lynette was concerned that no matter how many times she sprayed the flies to kill them, there was always more flies the next day. In fact, what disturbed Lynette the most was that they just appeared to multiply and accumulate on the walls and floor but only in the one bathroom. The flies were nowhere else in her home or in the other bathrooms.

Cleaning your bathroom won’t eliminate drain flies

Lynette was exasperated and frustrated that no matter how often she cleaned her bathroom, the drain flies just kept returning and multiplying.

She repeated to me what I’ve heard multiple times over the years, that she would clean the bathroom with a powerful supermarket bleach cleaner and by the next day the drain flies would have returned.

A friend had told her to buy a 2.5-litre container of bleach and pour it into all her drains in the bathroom which would kill the flies within 24 hours. After using all 2.5 litres of bleach the drain flies were still there.

What are drain flies?

Drain flies are more annoying than anything else as the sheer numbers in your bathroom are unsightly creating, an illusion that the bathroom is not clean.

They do not bite nor do they transmit any diseases of any sort. Nor do they damage clothes, towels or linen. 

Drain flies are prolific breeders which is why people like Lynette get frustrated as the more she appeared to kill, the more prolific they became.

The flies themselves are only around 3-4mm in length being dark grey in colour with hairy moth-like wings which as you can see in the photo below dominate their body size.

Why do drain flies only appear in bathrooms?

If you don’t live on an acreage block with a septic tank or sewer treatment plant, then the only place you will probably experience drain flies is in a bathroom. In septic tanks of sewer treatment plants drain flies breed prolifically but don’t stray far from the tanks which are their food source.

In bathrooms, the flies during the day appear to do nothing other than just sit on walls or under the vanity basin or on the ceiling. This is because they are more active at night, which is why you will seldom see them flying or actually emerging from you floor waste drain.

Even though they are poor fliers the flies are frequently transported by the wind away from septic tanks or sewer treatment plants for distances of 3-5km. This can allow them to enter your home through your insect screens as they are small enough to get through the holes in the mesh. Ultimately they will search for your bathroom floor waste drains because this is where they can feed and breed.

Where do drain flies live and breed?

Since drain flies are such poor fliers, they will always be found within a few meters of the bathroom floor waste drain. This is why you only ever appear to see them in a bathroom.

Infestations occur once temperatures exceed 20°C in spring. The rationale that they keep multiplying is not misplaced as their life cycle is 1-3 weeks from eggs hatching to becoming adult flies. They are prolific breeders with eggs hatching within 48 hours to become larvae. The larvae then mature within 12 days feeding on the decaying organic matter in the bathroom floor waste drain. The adult flies emerge from the drain at night that you then see on your bathroom walls and ceilings will live no longer than 2 weeks.

How you can eliminate a drain fly infestation in your bathroom?

Controlling and eliminating adult drain flies and larvae is by eliminating breeding sites in your bathroom drains. The pouring of bleach into the floor waste trap will typically work if you have a minor infestation.

A major infestation will not be solved by bleach as you need to thoroughly clean the and seal the floor waste trap to eliminate their food source and breeding ground.

From experience, we have found cleaning the whole area around the floor waste and inside the drain with Aquatemp Surface Sanitiser & Disinfectant will clean and disinfect the drain flies breeding ground and food source. 

If you are experiencing the annoyance of drain flies that will not go away give us a call at Whywait Plumbing on (07) 5580 4311 to book a service call so we can eliminate them once and for all.

Aquatemp Surface Sanitiser & Disinfectant 1 Litre Spray Bottle $36.92

Aquatemp Surface Sanitiser & Disinfectant comes in a ready to use spray bottle that eliminates the drain flies food source and breeding ground effectively plus sanitises, disinfects and protects for up to 24 hours.

WaterMark Certification Guaranteeing Community Health and Safety

WaterMark Certification Guaranteeing Community Health and Safety

The WaterMark Certification Scheme Is Ultimately About Your Health

The WaterMark Certification Scheme is not voluntary. It is a mandatory and legally enforcible certification scheme covering Australia for all plumbing and drainage products. Ultimately it is about guaranteeing community health and safety.  

Bear in mind the water you drink, cook with and wash in can conceivably transmit waterborne diseases if the water becomes contaminated. This is a major reason why all products such as taps you drink from must be WaterMark approved.

Every product that is intended for use in all plumbing and drainage installations must undergo a risk assessment to identify any potential risk of manufacturing faults and installation failures.

Looking for the WaterMark 

When purchasing any new plumbing products for your home such as taps or toilets you must check that the products you are buying or installing are certified for use in Australia?

Certified products are easy to identify by the WaterMark certification trademark logo, as illustrated below. The WaterMark logo must appear on a product or its packaging, in addition to its WaterMark licence number and the applicable product specification.

Regrettably, many people go online to buy “cheap” plumbing products especially taps. Few of these taps have WaterMark Certification and potentially can be manufactured with large amounts of lead in the metal.

Deplorably there are many companies in Australia who think they can ignore their responsibilities to obey the law where WaterMark Certification is required in the pursuit of profits. Online sales of what are technically illegal plumbing products are rampant. There are advertisements all over social media promoting the purchase and DIY installations of non WaterMark approved products such as My Bidet Australia.

WaterMark Awareness

The WaterMark Certification Scheme is administered by the Australian Building Codes Board or ABCB as part of the Plumbing Code of Australia or PCA.

With all of the issues surrounding COVID-19 earlier this year, the ABCB along with the QBCC and Queensland Health became very concerned about online purchasing of bidet seats, tap, shower, toilet and urinal products on eBay and other online stores.

This resulted in the ABCB rolling out the LOOK for the WaterMark campaign. The campaign aims to improve compliance with the PCA, by promoting the WaterMark Certification Scheme to increase the understanding of why products must have WaterMark.

The LOOK for the WaterMark campaign will be implemented as a succession of WaterMark promotions with three key messages:

  • WaterMark certified products are all marked with the WaterMark trademark logo, WaterMark licence number and applicable specification.
  • Plumbing work must be undertaken by licensed plumbers who are legally required to install only WaterMark certified products.
  • How to search the WaterMark product database to locate and verify all WaterMark certified products.

What is WaterMark?

The video below explains exactly what the WaterMark Certification Scheme is and why we have it to protect your health.

What Plumbing Products Require WaterMark?

The video below explains exactly which plumbing products are required to have WaterMark Certification and how you will know if the product has been certified.

How to Use The WaterMark Product Database

The video below explains how to search for plumbing products WaterMark Certification on the WaterMark Product Database so that you can verify if the product has been certified.

Responsibility for Supply & Installation of WaterMark Approved Products

Enforcement of most laws concerning plumbing and plumbing products lays with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.

As Licensed Plumbers, it has always been illegal for us here at Whywait Plumbing to install non WaterMark approved products and non-conforming plumbing products. Since 2017 it has been illegal for anyone to supply a non-conforming plumbing product.

At Whywait Plumbing we have always complied with the laws that pertain to plumbing products. We will notify the QBCC immediately whenever we discover non-conforming, non-compliant illegal plumbing products installed anywhere.

Ultimately all of these laws are for your protection, safety and the security of community health.

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