ADEM: No need to worry, state water systems ‘safe’

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) issued a press release Tuesday assuring Alabamians that, despite the ongoing pandemic, drinking water in the state is “safe” and “there’s no need to hoard cases of bottled water.”

“With so many things Alabamians have to worry about – their jobs, social distancing, the welfare of loved ones, gathering food and other necessities – the safety of their drinking water shouldn’t be one of them,” said ADEM Director Lance LeFleur in the release. “The water they get from their tap, whether it’s from a large municipal system or a small, rural utility, is 100 percent safe due to the proven safety requirements they are required to follow and that ADEM enforces. People don’t need to fear the coronavirus as far as their water is concerned.”

LeFleur noted that the disinfectants added to water systems per standard operating procedure kill viruses, including COVID-19, as do those added to municipal wastewater systems before such water is discharged into Alabama’s rivers and streams.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew R. White in a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Friday stressed the importance of the public’s confidence in their water supply in combating the virus.

“Ensuring that drinking water and wastewater services are fully operational is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks,” Wheeler wrote. “Handwashing and cleaning depend on providing safe and reliable drinking water and effective treatment of wastewater.”

Wheeler added that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated water and wastewater treatment workers and their suppliers as essential critical infrastructure workers and urged state and local officials to “ensure that these workers and businesses receive the access, credentials and essential status necessary to sustain our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

For his part, LaFleur agrees with the designation.

“From an environmental standpoint, nothing is more important than maintaining clean drinking water,” LeFleur said. “While coronavirus does not in itself pose a threat to our drinking water, nor to our wastewater treatment systems, it would be impossible to fight the virus without clean water. Our water systems and their employees are essential and, from our standpoint, so too are the people, our people, whose job is to make sure those systems are safe and well-maintained.”