MOSHER: "Aerosolized pathogens can affect one’s health"

MOSHER: "Aerosolized pathogens can affect one’s health"

Postby Oscar » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:29 pm

Aerosolized pathogens can affect one’s health

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by Jim Mosher Communications Staffer Interlake Enterprise January 31, 2018 Page 4

The strong sewage odour emanating from Gimli’s wastewater treatment plant can affect one’s health. But it remains an open question whether that is happening to residents of Aspen Park, a 194-unit residential subdivision immediately east of the plant.

It is well-documented that aerosolized pathogens and solvents in sewage can be carried in the air, sometimes quite far, principally depending on wind speed and direction. Residents of Aspen Park interviewed last week said the sewage odour is particularly acute when there are prevailing west winds.

(Aerosolization is the process or act of converting some physical substance into the form of particles small and light enough to be carried on the air, i.e. into an aerosol, a Wikipedia entry states.)

We contacted Dr. Eva Pip, a now-retired University of Winnipeg toxicologist, to explain the toxicology and potential health impacts. “Sewage gives rise to hundreds of volatile compounds that can enter the air,” she explained. “Hydrogen sulphide is particularly odoriferous, flammable and toxic. It can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness. It irritates the eyes and respiratory tract, and can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma. It has a very low threshold odour level, meaning that we can start to smell it at low concentrations well below toxic levels. However it causes olfactory paralysis, so that we cannot detect when concentrations are increasing, and possibly approach unsafe levels. This is especially a concern in occupations where workers are exposed to it, as high concentrations may cause sudden loss of consciousness known as ‘knockdown’.”

Industrial solvents may add to health concerns, she said. Higher temperatures increase the rate at which substances volatilize, and also increase the number of different kinds of substances that enter the air. Pip also noted that the central issue in the Gimli case is whether the sewage had been treated before the sewage treatment plant’s sequencing batch reactor was emptied. “It depends if the material has been disinfected,” she said. “If yes, then the pathogen risk is not significant. If it has not been disinfected, then pathogens can aerosolize and pose a health risk.”

It is unclear whether the sewage in the SBR was treated or where it was pumped. Gimli’s manager of utilities was not immediately available for comment late yesterday.

Meanwhile, a provincial spokesperson says the government is aware of the Gimli situation.

“The province is aware of the odour issue in Gimli, and has visited the facility,” the communications staffer said. “Staff are comfortable that the source of the problem has been identified and that the RM of Gimli is actively working on a solution. The town has a plan in place, but staff from Sustainable Development will continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of repairs.”

“Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living has not been involved in this issue at this point, but will be discussing the concerns with Sustainable Development.”
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