The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have given recommendations to water supply plants, municipal health protection authorities supervising these and Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment to secure water supply and sanitation during the coronavirus epidemic.
According to current knowledge, it is not considered likely that the new coronavirus could spread via drinking water. The virus is also not considered to cause any particular risks to those working at wastewater treatment plants.
The instructions do not mean any new obligations to water supply plants but their preparedness is based on the current legislation, mainly the Water Services Act and Health Protection Act.
The Water Services Act obliges water supply plants to ensure access to water supply and sanitation services for properties in emergency situations as well. Water supply plants must draw up plans on their preparedness for disruptions and keep these up to date, and take the necessary measures on the basis of the plans.
According to the Health Protection Act, health protection authorities must cooperate with other authorities and agencies and draw up a plan to prepare for disruptions affecting the environment where the people live.
The functioning of water supply and sanitation must be secured to be able to maintain the basic functions of society also during the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Especially large population centres and operations that require a lot of clean water, such as those in healthcare centres, hospitals and food industry, are highly vulnerable to any disruptions in water supply and sanitation services.
If the epidemic caused by the coronavirus expands, it is important that water supply plants and municipalities, together with the other water supply plants of the region, authorities and key customers using water services, make sure that their plans for disruptions and the instructions included in these are up to date.
A situation that may threaten the functioning of water supply and sanitation is one where a large percentage of the staff falls ill at the same time. This is why water supply plants are urged to ensure sufficient resources for managing the critical water supply and sanitation tasks, making use of the plans for disruptions.
Water supply plants are also urged to prepare for possible disruptions in the operations of service providers, including laboratories and suppliers of chemicals.
Jarkko Rapala, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 2951 63315, firstname.lastname(at)stm.fi
Katri Vasama, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources and Water Management Unit, tel. +358 50 595 5317, firstname.lastname(at)mmm.fi