Health Care Starts In The Sewers

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I like the notion that people who work with wastewater are essentially health care professionals. It frames this industry in a context that gives it the importance it deserves. 

Dr. Adrianus Vlugman, the senior advisor on water, sanitation and environmental health at the World Health Organization, gave a presentation at the 2015 Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis Feb. 26. He spoke to attendees on the transfer of communicable disease in water and wastewater. According to Vlugman, employees who directly handle water and wastewater need to take the same safety precautions as those working in hospitals. 

“All people working in water and wastewater sanitation are primary health care workers,” he says. “It’s right in the word itself. ‘Sanitas’ is the Latin word for health.” 

I think that’s an important thing for the people of this industry to keep in mind, that you serve a primary role in maintaining the health of your communities and should carry yourselves accordingly. 

Everyone in this industry is plenty familiar with the phrase out of sight, out of mind. People don’t think about the infrastructure beneath their feet until there’s a problem. And if they don’t think about the infrastructure, they definitely don’t think about the people who maintain it.  

You’re not a group of people relegated to working in the filthiest possible environment; you are professionals charged with maintaining the health of the environment and population. You are constantly putting yourselves in harm’s way — confined spaces, trench work, toxic gases, pathogen-laced materials — so that others can be safe. It’s a role that rivals any in terms of importance. 

But what about your health and safety? Who’s looking out for that? Working with wastewater poses legitimate threats, and you need to take steps to protect yourself. 

This month’s Tech Perspective focuses on a system for cleaning and disinfecting your cleaning equipment that leaves wastewater — and all the harms it carries — in the sewers where it belongs, keeping everything above ground safe for handling. 

The Vanguard System connects to a jetting truck’s water tank and a 5-gallon antibacterial cleaning concentrate tank. The system is operated by a control box that combines water from the truck’s tank with the cleaning solution. It also includes a handgun attachment that can be used to disinfect the surrounding area or other equipment that comes into contact with sewage. 

Independent laboratory testing on the system showed that it reduced bacterial counts by up to 98 percent. 

That’s a significant reduction in the chances of you getting sick from your work, which means you’ll be able to continue to do your part in keeping your customers safe and healthy. They might not realize that’s what you’re doing, but that doesn’t make it any less important. 

You’re cleaners, but more than that, you’re protectors, guardians of a system that provides the foundation for healthy communities. And that should be celebrated.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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