The town of Huntertown plans to use COVID-19 relief funds to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus through sewage.

The Huntertown Utility Service Board on Aug. 3 approved the purchase of 36 replacement ultraviolet lamp bulbs totaling $13,579, which could be eligible for reimbursement through CARES Act dollars. The bulbs are part of a system that treats for E. coli in the town’s wastewater, and could combat the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The town’s newly constructed wastewater treatment plant has been in operation for about two years, and the last of the reserve UV bulbs was installed the last week in July, Town Manager Beth Shellman said.

“We believe it’s critical that we replace the bulbs as they’re burning out not only to treat the E. coli and disinfect the wastewater but also as a precaution for COVID-19,” Shellman said. “… They’re burning out at a rate of about one per week, so I think they’re all getting enough hours on them, we need to do something.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ribonucleic acid from the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in untreated wastewater. While the data is limited, there is little evidence of infectious virus in the wastewater, and no information to date that anyone has become sick with COVID-19 because of exposure to wastewater. No additional COVID-19-specific protections have been recommended for workers involved in wastewater management, including those in wastewater treatment facilities.

Huntertown Clerk-Treasurer Ryan Schwab said if the purchase does not qualify for COVID-19 relief funding, the town could consider splitting the replacement bulbs into two purchases. He said he plans to submit a list of COVID-19-related purchases the town is considering to the Indiana Finance Authority, which will review the document and determine which projects will receive approval before Huntertown submits any future reimbursement requests.

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