News Briefs: Wastewater Tests Reveal COVID-19 Was in Italy in December​

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, San Francisco is awarded a $513 million WIFIA loan to finance pretreatment and other improvements to its Southeast Treatment Plant

After examining 40 wastewater samples that were previously collected between October 2019 and February 2020, researchers have determined COVID-19 was already present in northern Italy in December of last year — two months before the first cases were confirmed.

Italy’s National Institute of Health reports that traces of the virus were detected in December 2019 samples from Milan and Turin.

The institute’s research aims to understand how the virus started to circulate within the country.

AWWA Releases Statement on Perchlorate 

The American Water Works Association recently stated that it agrees with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that perchlorate should not be addressed through a national drinking water regulation.

The EPA’s decision is consistent with AWWA’s own analyses over the past two decades, according to an association spokesperson, most recently articulated in its Aug. 26, 2019, comments.

“In making its announcement, EPA noted that substantial progress has been made in states with significant perchlorate occurrence. This is good news,” reads the AWWA statement. “The Safe Drinking Water Act sets forth three criteria for regulation: the contaminant may have an adverse effect on the health of persons; it occurs in public water systems frequently and at levels of public health concern; and national regulation presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for people served by public water systems. These criteria are critical. They help assure that limited community resources are spent on the regulations that provide the greatest risk reduction.”

Congressman Seeks Funding for Victims of Flint Water Crisis

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint, Michigan, has announced that he will ask Congress to provide $50 million for the continuation of the Flint Registry, which is a federally funded program providing services to the victims of the Flint Water Ciris.

The legislation will be introduced as the Flint Registry Reauthorization Act, and it aims to keep the program funded beyond 2021.

“It does sound like a lot of money and it is,” Kildee said, according to “But this is the consequence of the failure to make the investment we need to make in cities’ water infrastructure. As a society, we pay a price one way or another." 

San Francisco awarded $513M for wastewater upgrades

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a $513 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in California to help finance needed pretreatment and other related improvements to its Southeast Treatment Plant, which treats 80% of San Francisco’s wastewater. 

This action marks the second WIFIA loan supporting San Francisco’s Southeast Treatment Plant and represents the latest effort by EPA to help protect public health and the environment in the Bay Area.

“Not only will this project provide environmental and public health benefits, it will create more than 3,000 jobs in the Bay Area,” says EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Rebuilding our aging water infrastructure at low cost to communities is a top priority for EPA.”


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