As the U.S. looks to create its first government-led wastewater surveillance program, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) has been tasked with training a nationwide network of water utilities to prevent and control infectious disease threats.
Selected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WEF will coordinate a network of wastewater facilities, state and local health departments, and laboratories, officials announced last week.
“Water and wastewater sector personnel are on the frontlines of ensuring the protection of public health and are able to play a central role in identifying and evaluating the presence of pathogens and other public health concerns in water,” announced WEF Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Andrew Sanderson, in a statement.
According to the CDC, the WEF-led network will develop best practices for the prevention and control of infectious diseases within the water and wastewater sector. This involves developing wastewater-based disease surveillance with a focus on information sharing and problem-solving, piloting new technologies, and training frontline wastewater and public health personnel in surveillance activities.
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“WEF is uniquely positioned to partner with CDC on the national wastewater-based disease surveillance system and network through our extensive membership presence in the areas of sanitation, engineering, public health and laboratories,” announced WEF president Lynn Broaddus, in a statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of CDC’s efforts to advance science and protect communities from infectious diseases,” she added.
Throughout the pandemic, the WEF’s Waterborne Infectious Disease Outbreak Control working group has been tasked with highlighting the latest scientific findings and methods of virus detection.
In summer 2020, WEF released Protecting Wastewater Professionals From Covid-19 and Other Biological Hazards, which re-examines approaches to managing biological hazards in general.
Early into the pandemic, WEF worked to highlight the importance of water services during the coronavirus by releasing a “toolkit” of graphics and messaging. The goal was to showcase how water professionals provide essential services critical to a community’s ability to minimize the spread, flatten the curve, and support medical professionals’ efforts to provide care, conduct research and develop treatments.