Infection risk from hospital wastewater

Having previously worked with the risk of cholera and other serious infection risks from contaminated hospital watsewaters in regions where the climatic and geological conditions allowed pathogens from waste to enter the water suply within hours it comes as no surprise to see a similar situation reported in New Zealand.

Norovirus infection has caused outbreaks in Whangarei hospital and some local residential homes; the outbreak was also linked to the deaths of two patients at the rest homes.

Interestingly, Whangarei Harbour has now been closed to shellfish taking when high levels of norovirus were found there after heavy rain caused spills from the Hatea pump station, the Whangarei wastewater treatment plant, and discharges from parts of the sewerage network.

This happens more readily in flood conditions but here it seems that untreated or inadequately treated sewage is entering the sea, and from there the food chain, without control.

It is important to recognise that an effective and efficient sewage waste treatment process is crucial to public health. Unfortunately, the best we can provide has changed little from that developed by the Victorians. It is often unfit for purpose, by design or its ability to manage the effective removal of somepathogens, or of drug and suspended solids

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