U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a second round of federal stimulus for anti-coronavirus water infrastructure in California is mostly unneeded. That is because most water and sewage treatment plants have installed ultraviolet disinfection treatment facilities in the last ten years.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a second $75.9 billion round of federal anti-corona-virus stimulus (called the Moving Forward Framework) partly for anti-coronavirus water treatment facilities might give rise to a joke among most of California’s hundreds of water and wastewater treatment plant operators. In anticipation of something like the present Coronavirus outbreak, California installed ultraviolet (UV) light water treatment facilities that disinfect bacteria and virus from drinking water and wastewater across the state in the last ten years.
A joke might be that since Pelosi plans to hand out unneeded political pork to combat the coronavirus she must have contracted a case of political swine flu.
Public UV Systems Are Double the Cost of Private Systems
In 2014, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) installed a UV water treatment system in its Sylmar Water Treatment Plant for serving about 1,347,580 households for $100 million. The DWP UV water treatment facility was built by internal DWP public employees at a cost overrun of $40 million. Financed by municipal bonds, which double the cost to pay interest on the bonds, the actual cost was around $200 million, reflecting an estimated cost of about $12 per household per month.
Any homeowner concerned about water-borne bacteria or virus can install an ultraviolet water disinfection system in the garage of their home for about $629 or $6 per month.
If Pelosi was serious about economic stimulus, she should just hand a check for $629 to every homeowner who had no public UV-treated drinking water. It would create jobs and could save taxpayers about another $629 in costs over a public-financed centralized community-wide UV water treatment system.
California-Wide Public UV Water Treatment Installations
California undertook to install UV water and wastewater treatment systems across the state from about 2011 to 2015. UV water treatment systems were installed in:
- Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, Santa Clara County, 2013
- Pankaj Parekh UV Disinfection Facility, LADWP Aqueduct Filtration Plant, 2014
- Tesla Water Treatment Facility, San Francisco, 2011
- East Bay Orinda Water Treatment Plant Disinfection Facilities, 2021 to 2025.
- City of San Diego Advanced Water Purification Facility, 2012
- Baker Water Treatment Plant, Orange County, 2016
- Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment Facility, City of Long Beach, 2014
- Bakersfield Water Treatment Plant Expansion, 2006
- Santa Clarita Valley, LA County Sanitation District, 2018
UV water and wastewater treatment is not required in California regulations although it has become an industry standard.
How does UV Water Treatment Work?
Ultraviolet light is somewhere between visible light and x-rays on the electromagnetic energy spectrum and is invisible radiation. UV rays work to disinfect water by striking bacteria, virus or cysts by inactivating DNA in a UV transparent tube for a specified period of time. The process adds nothing chemically to water, does not change the taste of water and does not disinfect molds, protozoa, Giardia and Cryptosporidium cysts except at extremely high doses of light. UV treatment does not work in cloudy (turbid) water. The process is 99.9 percent effective but is most effective in treating clear water that has already been treated to remove particles by distillation.
Additionally, human skin exposed to natural or artificial UV light makes vitamin D in the human body that activates the immune system to destroy bacteria and viruses, particularly involved with upper respiratory infections.
Is Coronavirus Waterborne?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronavirus has not been detected in drinking water, although a 2009 National Institute of Health (NIH) study hypothetically indicated that coronavirus could remain infectious for long periods of time (up to 22 days in cold weather) in water or sewage. However, a University of California Riverside study indicated that exposure of coronavirus to UV for 60 minutes “resulted in destruction of viral infectivity at an undetectable level.”
Virus can be found in human waste but risk of transmission is unknown. Risk of transmission of C-virus through sewer systems to humans is considered very low and there have been no such documented incidents. Monitoring of sewage for virus is being conducted in the Netherlands as an early warning system for outbreaks or re-outbreaks. But, once again, sewage is not left untreated or unexposed to sunlight in modernized water treatment.
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