UPDATE: August 2003

Even though the global SARS threat of the Spring of 2003, appears to have been contained ---and fears have subsided--- we do not know IF or WHEN SARS, or the next highly contageous disease, will return.  There are some valuable lessons to be learned from all of this:

  1. We can never predict when SARS will return, or when the next killer-pandemic will strike global populations. Risk-avoidance ---of every known kind--- should be practiced, wherever possible.

  2. Open sewage has been discovered as one of the contributors to the spread of SARS, by insects and small rodents, as the vectors. Forward-thinking municipalities should strictly adhere to the Provincial Planning Policy, which recommends refraining from the use of open sewage lagoons, close to modern urban settings. The City of Ottawa has been very backward in this area. Munster residents should not tolerate or accept the City's politically-motivated selection of the relatively inferior pressurized sewage forcemain: requiring continuous use of open sewage lagoon(s) immediately adjacent to their community.

  3. Notwithstanding the above, elimination of the pipeline/lagoon option should be a virtual NO-BRAINER, given: 
    a.)   the elevated risk of the West Nile Virus posed by the presence of open, raw-sewage lagoons, as ideal mosquito breeding grounds, and,
    b.)   the downstream risk to the shallow aquifer caused by (the virtual certainty of) pressure forcemain ruptures, or even worse ---by slow, undetectable leaks which could pollute the aquifer for months before being discovered ...only when residents fall ill.




Dateline - April 2003:

The SARS virus
is spread in ways that we are just beginning to understand. Researchers have learned that the SARS virus remains viable in sewage, and that rodent and/or insect vectors have been one of its modes of transmission (see press stories below).  In the event that SARS virus ---from an outside source--- infects a Munster family, then (even with quarantining), Munster's open sewage lagoons could subsequently present a much greater cause for worry, as a potential "rapid spreader" of SARS, back to the community. Why take any risk, with future flare-ups of SARS ...when that risk can be completely avoided?

Ottawa Council has to make a June 11th, 2003 decision, whether or not to have a wastewater treatment system that can eliminate its past reliance upon open sewage lagoons adjacent to Munster. Residents have repeatedly stated that they prefer the lagoons to be removed:
(EA Public Comment Sheets), (April 2002 Survey).

Councillor Janet Stavinga has extensively lobbied for blind support for the City Staff's current preference for a forcemain that would transport untreated sewage to the Richmond pumping station on York Street: a plan which has no scientific basis or rationale, only numerous deficiencies. Besides the pipeline's ---400%-plus--- higher cost, there is the local health risk created by the full-time requirement for open sewage lagoons at Munster, (in order for the 11-km. forcemain to marginally function). The presence of sewage lagoons, smack-centre of the
2-year capture
of the "Wellhead Protection Zone", conflicts with the new provincial "Wellhead Protection Plan".

Another senseless health risk would be that posed by a rupture-prone, high pressure forcemain passing 140 shallow family wells on its way to the Richmond pumping station.

Does the Councillor now want to add the unknown, associated, risks of the West Nile and SARS viruses to this "Russian roulette" gamble with peoples' lives?

The Mechanical Treatment option, (one of the advanced technology bids, conforming in every respect to the City's Request for Proposals in 1998), is a completely indoor system that does not require any lagoons. The final process step for the "tap-water-clear" effluent is UV-sterilization, which not only kills the remaining bacteria, it very effectively kills viruses ---such as SARS.

The big question, NOW, is:

Given the gradual dawning of understanding of the ways in which the SARS virus can be spread, such as the sewage-rodent/insect-vector route: should the City perhaps ---now--- seize this Golden Opportunity to proceed on the side of caution (given its limited knowledge, at this stage, of all future risks posed by open sewage) ...and use a modern, enclosed, treatment technology, ---with cost-savings as bonus---, that eliminates the ever-increasing potential for critical health risk from the "third world"-style, open air, disease-infested sewage lagoons on Munsterís doorstep?

See referenced article: immediately below,
and update links: at bottom of page...

likely spread through Hong Kong apartment's sewage pipes: report
Canadian Press
HONG KONG (AP) - A SARS patient with diarrhea infected other people in a Hong Kong apartment complex as the disease apparently spread into homes through a sewage pipe linked to poorly sealed water drains, an official report said Thursday.

More people who came down with severe acute respiratory syndrome in Block E of the Amoy Gardens apartments also got diarrhea, creating huge amounts of contaminated feces that spread the virus through pipes in Hong Kong's biggest outbreak of the flu-like illness, said the health secretary, Dr. Yeoh Eng-kiong.

Rats and cockroaches also may have spread SARS, but only incidentally after they picked it up around the apartments, Yeoh told a news conference.

"They were just passive, mechanical carriers," Yeoh said, adding that rats captured by the investigators did not come down with SARS symptoms.

There is no evidence of airborne transmission, Yeoh said.

At least 324 people were infected in Amoy Gardens, where SARS was also apparently spread through person-to-person contact and in common areas, such as elevators, lobbies and staircases, according to the report made by several Hong Kong government agencies.

The SARS outbreak in Amoy Gardens has been the most alarming in Hong Kong, where the disease has infected 1,297 people and killed at least 65. Four new deaths and 29 new cases were reported Thursday.

About 40 per cent of the SARS cases in Amoy Gardens came from one building, called Block E, that was evacuated at one point with all of its residents moved into holiday camps that were turned into makeshift quarantine centres.

The disease was brought to Amoy Gardens by an infected man who visited his brother there on March 14 and March 19, Yeoh said. The outbreak peaked in Block E on March 24 and there was a lag of about three days later before it spread to residents of other blocks.

Yeoh said that once the virus got into the waste pipe in Block E, droplets that carried it apparently moved up through people's bathroom drains when U-shaped water seals dried out. Fans apparently helped suck the virus particles into homes, he said.

One resident of Block E told The Associated Press the report's findings sounded right and she called on officials to focus on calming the public and stopping the spread of SARS.

"We have long suspected it could be problems with the sewage system - the apartments are so close together," said Anna Yuen, 45, who lives in Block E with her husband and three children.

"We were scared at first but after the isolation, we haven't seen any outbreak like what we had before," Yuen said by telephone. "I believe the situation has come under control."

But Yuen said she'd give the government's handling of the crisis just "70 marks out of 100."

"They have not been quick enough in calming the public," Yuen said.

The pneumonia-like illness has killed at least 166 people and infected about 1,300 worldwide. Mainland China has reported 65 deaths as has Hong Kong. Singapore has 15 SARS death, Canada 13, Vietnam five, Thailand two and Malaysia one.

Meanwhile, the world's second most populous country reported its first SARS case on Thursday.

Authorities in India said a 32-year-old man in the western state of Goa contracted the disease after travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore, S.P. Agarwal, the government's director general of health services, told a news conference.

Prashil Varde, an Indian marine engineer, returned home to Goa on April 3, he was treated by a private doctor for cough and fever, two of the symptoms of SARS, said Dr. Shivlal, director of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. He uses only one name.

The man and his wife, who has not tested positive for the virus, have been isolated, Agarwal said.

The World Health Organization has said scientists have confirmed the identity of the SARS virus, in a key step toward finding drugs to fight it.

In Singapore, airline passengers arriving from some SARS-stricken areas were being scanned for fever by military-grade equipment adapted for the war on SARS.

Those who show up on the camera screen as "hot bodies," or with a temperature greater than 37.5 C, will be pulled aside to have their temperature taken by a nurse, said Evelyn Ong, a spokeswoman at the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

In Beijing, universities said Thursday they have cancelled activities and some classes to prevent the spread of SARS, breaking with earlier official insistence on continuing public events.


© Copyright  2003 The Canadian Press


More recent confirmation of SARS-sewage link:  Newsday - May 1, 2003

SARS fatality rate 55% for aged-60 and above:  The New York Times - May 7, 2003

W.H.O. Cumulative Count: 8141 - (May 24, 2003):  W.H.O., SARS tracking page

SARS link to three mammalian species, through sewage: Toronto Star, May 23, 2003