SOUTH DAKOTA Department of
Environment & Natural Resources

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South Dakota DENR

Frequently Asked Questions about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Water Quality

Information for General Public - Click Here

Information for Drinking Water and Wastewater Operators - see below

General Information

Emergency Planning

Drinking Water Information

Wastewater Information

Stormwater Information

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GENERAL INFORMATION

Where can I go for up-to-date information about COVID-19 and Water Quality?

The South Dakota Department of Health is maintaining the state’s primary source of information regarding COVID-19 at COVID.sd.gov. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a new COVID-19 page and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have a webpage with information. This FAQ summarizes some of this information.

Is there a water test for the coronavirus?

There is no specific test for coronavirus in water at this time. However, common disinfection treatment techniques are expected to be effective for the coronavirus and the World Health Organization has stated that the “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies and based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.”

EMERGENCY PLANNING

Are public utilities expected to uphold the routine maintenance of system facilities during an emergency?

Yes. The Department of Homeland Security has declared drinking water systems, wastewater systems, and other utility operations as “essential critical infrastructure workers” during the COVID-19 response. This means that water and wastewater systems have a special responsibility to continue normal operations as modified to account for CDC workforce and customer protection guidance. For more information on the definition of essential critical infrastructure workers, visit the Department of Homeland Security webpage.

What kinds of operational impacts should we expect from a pandemic situation? What can we do to be prepared?

All public water systems and wastewater systems should plan for continuity of operations during a pandemic as well as any other type of emergency (e.g., flooding, blizzards, or forest fires). During a severe pandemic, the most serious expected challenge for public water systems is absenteeism from employees who are sick, who are taking care of others, who are quarantined, or who must stay home for other reasons. Planning for staffing shortages - both at your plant and at businesses you rely on - is one of the most critical things you can do to ensure continuity of operations.


The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has established monitoring and reporting requirements for your system that are critical to protect human health and the environment. Therefore, these requirements need to be met to the extent possible. Please contact DENR at 1-800-GET-DENR (1-800-438-3367) if you are unable to meet these requirements due to staffing shortages, travel restrictions, local ordinances, laboratory closings, limited testing supplies, or other concerns. DENR will work with you to approve any necessary modifications to your requirements.

What adjustments are we allowed to make to keep our workers safe?

Employee safety is always a high priority. Water and wastewater staff need to take the following steps:

If you are unable to maintain your treatment levels or collect your required samples (for either drinking water or wastewater) due to staff safety concerns, please notify DENR immediately. We can help you to maintain compliance.

What can we do if we experience labor shortages?

It is a good idea for utilities to have a formal labor shortage plan detailing how they will remain in operation if a substantial portion of the workforce is unavailable. These plans should include procedures for augmenting staff as needed due to incapacitation or loss of available workforce. For more information on continuity planning, please see the Business Continuity Planning for Water Utilities guidance document that was jointly sponsored by the US EPA, the American Water Works Association, and the Water Research Foundation.
Also, mutual aid may be available through the South Dakota Water/Wastewater Agency Resource Network (SDWARN). SDWARN is a statewide network of “utilities helping utilities” that facilitates mutual aid and resource sharing between water and wastewater utilities. It is free to join. Once a utility has signed the mutual aid agreement and becomes a member, they can “activate SDWARN,” which will send out an email to all SDWARN members with a request for help. Members will then respond if they are able to help. Often it is easy, quick, and inexpensive to get equipment and personnel help from a neighboring utility. We encourage non-member systems to join, as SDWARN is not able to help non-members.

What do I do if my lab is not accepting samples because they have closed in response to COVID-19?

If your lab has closed, please first try to find lab in your area that is accepting samples:

Drinking water samples must be analyzed by a certified laboratory. DENR maintains a list of certified labs on its website: Drinking Water Certified Labs. Please note: Some systems that are not certified may have the capability of analyzing their own samples (e.g., total coliforms). However, these samples would not count towards drinking water compliance.

Wastewater samples must be conducted using the EPA-approved methods found in 40 CFR Part 136. Systems can conduct their own samples, provided they follow these methods.

The Department of Health’s Environmental Health Laboratory has been designated as an essential state service and remains open for both drinking water and wastewater testing. For more information, see their website.

It is important to assure your public that your drinking water and your discharged wastewater are meeting all the regulatory standards, especially in this time of emergency. Additionally, make sure you are signed up for SDWARN. Other systems in your area may know of labs that are open or may even help assist with other systems’ sampling (if they have a certified lab and have the capacity to provide assistance).

What do we do if we experience chemical shortages? If we can’t find bleach?

During resource shortages, whether of supplies or labor, utilities should utilize the SDWARN. If DENR becomes aware of specific shortages or issues commonly facing water and wastewater systems, we will keep both the SDWARN network and this fact sheet updated.

What are we required to do in the event of a public health or environmental emergency?

During an emergency such as a spill or specific event at a utility (e.g., line break, sewer overflow, flood), DENR still expects utilities to manage the public information function for their district. This may include issuing emergency boil water advisories that require 24-hour public notice (i.e., tier 1 public notice) to all of a drinking water system’s customer. DENR will always help with drafting and reviewing the required public notice. We have an easy-to-use public notice guide available online.

In addition to the direct delivery requirements for these public notices, press releases and other social media outlets (e.g., Facebook, Next Door, etc.) have been an effective way to reach consumers in a relatively short amount of time. If you are unable to meet the direct delivery requirements (e.g., due to accessibility issues), please contact DENR immediately at 1-800-GET-DENR (800-438-3367). For sanitary sewer overflows, the utility should implement methods to cleanup and mitigate the sewer overflow that are standard for sewage overflows (e.g., collect ponded sewage, disinfect the area with chlorine, restrict public access, etc.).

Can essential water/wastewater treatment personnel be prioritized for COVID-19 testing or screening?

The state has expanded its testing criteria to align with the CDC. The information on CDC’s webpage changes frequently, so we encourage you to frequently check the CDC webpage, and the State of South Dakota’s main COVID-19 website.

When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, can essential water/wastewater treatment personnel be prioritized for vaccination?

The state does not have any information available yet on who would be prioritized for vaccination, once a vaccine becomes available. Check back to this site and the South Dakota COVID-19 website for more information as it becomes available.

DRINKING WATER INFORMATION

Is drinking tap water safe?

Yes. The World Health Organization has stated that the “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies and based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.” EPA’s drinking water regulations require treatment at public water systems to remove or kill pathogens including viruses. DENR’s Drinking Water Program is working with water treatment systems so that they continue to follow these regulations. If a system violates drinking water regulations, the system is required to distribute a public notice to all its customers. It’s important for the public to be connected so that they are notified.

Conducting Drinking Water Sampling

What can drinking water systems do when faced with challenges accessing needed sample sites? Are we still expected to follow our regular sampling schedules during an emergency?

During an emergency, we still expect utilities to take drinking water samples, such as chlorine and bacteria samples, from the required sampling locations. To not sample appropriately could create another health risk to the public. It is a good idea to identify alternative locations now so that you would be ready to use them in an emergency.


DENR realizes that accessibility during an emergency may be limited; however, public health still needs to be protected. Please be aware that DENR is not waiving any drinking water regulatory requirements because we must ensure public health is protected through their drinking water. All monitoring and reporting requirements still apply and any violations will continue to be issued. It is important that the public be made aware of drinking water problems via the public notice rule as required by both the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and South Dakota's Drinking Water Regulations.


If there are any accessibility issues with any of your treatment or distribution system samples, please contact us at 605-773-3754.

Total Coliform Sampling

For total coliform sampling, systems may have to collect samples from outside spigots, hydrants, etc. to avoid going into people's homes. We highly encourage systems to review their current total coliform sample siting plan to make sure it is up-to-date and includes readily accessible sampling sites that are representative of distribution system water quality. Please contact Barb Friedeman at 605-773-4052 or Rob Kittay at 605-773-4208 and they can help you with updating your plan.

Can public drinking water systems choose to collect all their TOTAL COLIFORM samples from outside locations in order to prevent community spread and as part of social distancing measures?

Yes. If a system chooses to collect total coliform samples from outside locations, such as a hose bib, DENR recommends that the supplier take the necessary precautions to ensure that the sample tap is properly cleaned and disinfected with bleach or alcohol before the sample is collected. Please be advised that DENR will not invalidate positive total coliform or E. coli results just because the samples were collected at outdoor locations.


If the outdoor sample location is not from a previously specified sample location identified within their total coliform sample siting plan, the supplier must update its total coliform sample siting plan and make sure that the new site is representative of distribution system water quality. If you have any questions, please contact Rob Kittay at 605-773-4208

Can public drinking water systems choose to collect their TOTAL COLIFORM samples from a site more than once a month to meet the number of required samples and to prevent community spread and as part of social distancing measures?

Yes, as long as the proposed sampling site is representative of water quality in the distribution system and is clearly identified in the system’s total coliform sample siting plan. If any sample sites are hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes with restricted access, the operator may not be allowed to sample at this site and may skip this site until access is restored. For any questions, please contact Rob Kittay at 605-773-4208.

Can public drinking water systems collect all their TOTAL COLIFORM samples on the same day or collect all the samples during the first week of the month?

The drinking water regulations require that public water systems collect their total coliform samples at regular time intervals throughout the month. The purpose of this requirement is to assess the safety of the drinking water throughout the monitoring period. Only groundwater systems that serve less than or equal to (<) 4,900 people can collect all their samples on a single day. In South Dakota, approximately 84.1% of our regulated systems are only required to collect one total coliform sample per month (since they serve less than or equal to (<) 1,000 people). We always recommend that these smaller systems sample early in the month and follow their total coliform sample siting plan.


For larger systems that are required to sample at routine intervals, DENR requires that systems collect samples in accordance with their total coliform sample siting plan. These systems can still collect samples early in the sampling interval - for example on the 24th of the month instead of the 30th of the month for a fourth week sample interval.

Population Served Range (people)

Recommended Sampling Intervals

1,001 - 4,900

Sample twice a month at regular intervals, unless the system is a groundwater system that serves less than or equal to (<) 4,900 people

4,901 - 12,900

Sample twice a month at regular intervals

12,901 - 17,200

Sample three times a month at regular intervals

17,201 - 25,000

Sample four times a month at regular intervals

25,001 or more

Samples collected at regular intervals throughout the month

 

Will a transient drinking water system such as a restaurant or business which is closed for the entire month receive drinking water violations for not sampling?

If you are only closed for a portion of a month (or monitoring period), you must still collect your required samples for that month/period. We always encourage systems to sample early to account for any unforeseen circumstances, such as what we are experiencing now with COVID-19. Failure to complete your required drinking water monitoring will result in violations.
However, if you are closed for the entire month (or monitoring period), you are not required to collect your drinking water samples for that month/period. For example, if you are closed for the entire month of April, you would not be required to collect your total coliform samples since the system was not serving water to the public for the entire month. If this is your situation, please notify Barb Friedeman at 605-773-4052 no later than the end of the month/monitoring period.

Lead and Copper Sampling

For lead and copper monitoring, most of our public water systems are on triennial monitoring (i.e., required to sample for lead and copper June through September once every three years). For systems on semi-annual status, (i.e., required to sample twice per year during the timeframes of Jan 1 to June 30 and July 1 to December 31) we recommend waiting until May to try and sample for those systems required to sample by June 30. Systems should call ahead to homeowners to confirm access to drop sample bottles off for homeowners to collect samples. These samples are still NOT allowed to be taken from an outdoor spigot. If a sample site is unavailable, you may collect a sample at another site in your sampling pool (that meets the tiering requirements). Please contact Erin Fagnan at 605-394-6780 if you need assistance with identifying additional sample sites.

Can public drinking water systems choose to collect all their LEAD AND COPPER samples from outside locations in order to prevent community spread and as part of social distancing measures?

No. Lead and Copper samples taps are required to be collected a “FIRST-DRAW TAP SAMPLE” which means a lead and copper tap sample that is collected, without flushing the tap, where the water has stood motionless in the plumbing system for at least six hours. Residential samples must be collected from the cold water kitchen sink or bathroom sink tap. Samples collected at nonresidential buildings must be collected at an interior tap from which water is typically drawn for human consumption. For lead and copper monitoring, on triennial monitoring (i.e., required to sample for lead and copper June through September once every three years). For systems on semi-annual status, (i.e., required to sample twice per year during the timeframes of Jan 1 to June 30 and July 1 to December 31) we recommend waiting until May to try and sample for those systems required to sample by June 30.
If the supplier does not have access to the highest risk tier sites as specified in their monitoring schedule, they need to contact Erin Fagnan at 605-394-6780. DENR recommends that the supplier attempt to collect samples throughout the full monitoring period whenever possible. If a supplier is not able to collect samples at the required number of highest risk tiered sites by the end of the monitoring period, it is possible that a violation will have occurred.

Disinfection Byproduct Sampling

For disinfection byproduct sampling, many of our regulated systems are on reduced monitoring (i.e., annual monitoring). We highly encourage systems to collect their disinfection byproduct samples early in the monitoring period. This allows ample time to both collect and analyze the samples. If you have accessibility issues, please contact DENR. We will work with your system to identify other possible monitoring sites that meet the regulatory requirements (e.g., are within five sample sites of the original location).

Can public drinking water systems choose to collect their DISINFECTION BYPRODUCTS samples from outside or alternative locations in order to prevent community spread and as part of social distancing measures?

Yes. If a supplier chooses to collect disinfection byproducts from an outside or alternative location the supplier must ensure that the sample site is representative of high TTHM and/or HAA5 concentrations. However, if a normal sample location is not available, suppliers can collect a sample from a location with similar water quality and near the original site. All sample site changes must be submitted to DENR. If a system is unable to collect a sample from an area that represents high TTHM and/or HAA5 concentration, it is possible that a violation will have occurred. If you have any questions, please contact Mark McIntire at 605-773-6575 to discuss any potential violations or if you have questions.

WASTEWATER INFORMATION

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through wastewater?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “coronaviruses are susceptible to the same disinfection conditions in community and healthcare settings as other viruses, so current disinfection conditions in wastewater treatment facilities are expected to be sufficient. This includes conditions for practices such as oxidation with hypochlorite (i.e., chlorine bleach) and peracetic acid, as well as inactivation using UV irradiation.” This means that it is important for systems to keep up with routine maintenance, especially when it includes disinfection. You can find further information on the CDC’s page on COVID-19 and water transmission.

In addition, the World Health Organization has indicated in the technical brief entitled  Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for the COVID-19 virus there is “no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.”
Additional information on the coronavirus is available from the Water Environment Federation.

Should wastewater workers be doing anything differently to keep themselves safe on the job?

According to the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there is no evidence that wastewater workers need to take additional precautions. Workers should always follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater, including using the engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and the personal protective equipment normally required for work tasks when handling untreated wastewater.
Disinfection with chlorine should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

How should dischargers complete their Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) if staff are unable to sample or if they cannot get results back from the laboratory?

A permittee that temporarily cannot collect or analyze samples as required by their permit should still submit the required DMRs, but complete the following steps at the time of DMR submittal:

In all cases, please submit a cover letter with the DMR that includes a brief explanation of how conditions beyond your reasonable control resulted in the monitoring and reporting requirements not being met. To the extent feasible, provide any information to support that the facility was being properly maintained at the time and was expected to be meeting effluent limits (e.g., operating logs or other relevant evidence). If you are not able to submit your DMR by the deadlines in a permit, please complete the DMR and submit the report to DENR as soon as conditions allow.

What happens when permit requirements such as self-inspections cannot be followed because of staff absenteeism or quarantine measures related to COVID-19?

If a facility is not able to meet permit requirements, such as self-inspection requirements, because it is following COVID-19 safe practices, please contact DENR in accordance with the upset requirements detailed in your permit. Refer to the upset provisions in your permit for more information. It is important to document when the facility evokes this condition and when it ended so you can clearly communicate why there may be a lapse or reduced frequency of inspection oversight. Also, document the actions that were taken, or will be taken, to minimize the time period and potential impact of noncompliance.

For submittals that are required to have an original signature, will DENR accept electronic or scanned signatures if an original signature cannot be obtained and sent to DENR due to quarantine measures or other issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Many of South Dakota’s permits and forms require an original signature, due to EPA’s requirements. However, DENR will accept a scanned hand-signed signature or a digital signature (as described below) during the COVID-19 outbreak and we will begin processing those applications and other documents upon receipt by email. We would ask that you still follow the normal procedures for submitting the original documents to DENR and mail those to us when you are able to ensure we comply with the federal requirements.
These digital signature instructions do not apply to discharge monitoring reports submitted through NetDMR. Continue to follow your current process for electronic submittals for those systems that have been approved for electronic reporting.

Acceptable digital signatures include signatures that can be tied back to a computer login, drawn (on a digital tablet, phone or with a PC) signatures, and images of your real signature. Digital signatures that will not be accepted are typed in signatures of any kind. Please see the examples below

Acceptable Signatures

Computer login verified:

Drawn:

Photographed:

Not Accepted: Typed or electronically-generated by use of a script font.

Joe Smith   Or

 

 

 

 

STORMWATER INFORMATION

What happens if I cannot complete the self-inspections at my site as required in my stormwater permit due to staff absenteeism or quarantine measures related to COVID-19?

If a construction stormwater site is not able to meet permit requirements because it is following COVID-19 safe practices, such as self-inspection requirements, refer to theSouth Dakota Construction General Permit. Permit Condition 4.4 - Areas that Need to be Inspected item #8 states the following: “Exception. You are not required to inspect areas that, at the time of the inspection, are unsafe for your inspection personnel."

It is important to document and update your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and your inspection records with any COVID-19 related-changes in procedures or stabilization measures so you can clearly document why there may be a lapse or reduced frequency of inspections. Also, document the actions that were taken, or will be taken, to minimize the timeframe and potential impact of noncompliance, such as implementing temporary stabilization for disturbed areas prior to shutting down a construction project.

Industrial stormwater sites should also document in their SWPPP and inspection report if you are not able to conduct wet weather monitoring due to COVID-19.
Contact the Stormwater Team at stormwater@state.sd.us or 1-800-SD-STORM (800-737-8676) with any additional questions.

What happens if my site shuts down during the COVID-19 outbreak?

It is important to document and update your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) with any COVID-19 changes in procedures, stabilization measures, or inspection frequency changes.
Also, document the actions that were taken to minimize the timeframe and potential impact of noncompliance, such as implementing temporary stabilization for disturbed areas prior to shutting down a construction project or moving potential stormwater contaminants under cover at an industrial site.
Contact the Stormwater Team at stormwater@state.sd.us or 1-800-SD-STORM (800-737-8676) with any additional questions.


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