COVID-19: What the public needs to know about water and sanitation

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, municipal water and sewer providers have addressed some common concerns among the general public.
At a regular meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 12, District Manager Justin Ramsey noted that COVID-19 cannot be spread through drinking water.
“It’s very susceptible to chlorine,” Ramsey said. “We do keep chlorine in our water.”
However, COVID-19 can be found in sewage, Ramsey noted, adding that there are other unhealthy things found in sewage as well.
“What the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the state recommends for our sanitation workers is, ‘don’t take any different precautions than they already should be taking. Because you’re dealing with nasty stuff,’” he said.
The only way PAWSD could be affected by COVID-19 is if too many staff members were to get sick, Ramsey added later.
According to Ramsey, the state of Colorado has put together a program, called CoWARN [Colorado Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network] that allows PAWSD to “share” equipment and staff.
“So if PAWSD gets hit real hard with this, I can call Durango and say ‘I need two water operators’ and if they have them available, they’ll send them to us,” he said. “It sets out how we’re going to pay for it and pay them back and so on and so forth.”
In a follow-up interview on March 17, Ramsey noted that PAWSD is now a part of CoWARN.
Additionally, Ramsey noted that PAWSD has run into issues with citizens using and flushing items that cause problems with PAWSD’s infrastructure.
“It is causing somewhat of a problem. It’s not a major catastrophe, but it is definitely clogging some pumps and causing a little bit of issues,” he said.
On March 17, PAWSD’s administrative offices closed to the public indefinitely, Ramsey explained in an email.
PAWSD customers will still receive regular water and wastewater service, Ramsey noted.
“You may still reach us by phone. To pay with cash or check, please place your payment in an envelope with your account number on it and distinguish it between fill station and utility payment, and place it in the lockbox located outside of the gates of the PAWSD driveway (the PAWSD brick sign.),” Ramsey wrote. “It will be checked each morning, and payments posted by noon each day, so please plan accordingly.”
Town Manager Andrea Phillips explained in an email to The SUN on March 17 that the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District is not doing anything different in terms of treatment.
“As always, we ask that people not flush anything down the toilet that is nonflushable. Those should go in the waste can,” she wrote.

 

This story was posted on March 22, 2020.