How our sewer samples will contribute to the science of COVID surveillance

Samples from our treatment plants among other Ohio utilities’ being analyzed for potential to track future COVID outbreaks

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Beginning in May, we explored a potential partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide influent samples from our treatment plants as part of a COVID-19 pilot study.

That partnership is now a reality.

A partnership of EPA, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Health, and the Ohio Water Resource Center are monitoring utilities’ influent samples — including ours — to study viral genetic material in wastewater and its potential to serve as an indicator of emerging COVID-19 in communities.

A few important related notes:

  • This study is not looking at viability or transmission of COVID-19 in wastewater.
  • The weekly plant influent sample collection is already part of our existing protocols.
  • The Center for Disease Control to date has no reported cases of COVID-19 being spread in wastewater.

This week, our first collection of samples were sent to the Ohio Water Resource Center at The Ohio State University where the analysis will be conducted until other universities bring their own labs online with the approved test method.

“Ohio’s leadership role in this research will help advance this emerging scientific area and provide important data to public health officials statewide,” said the Ohio EPA in an official release.

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We see this as an exciting opportunity and another example of how utilities can advance innovation and the common good in the name of health. We’re excited to get started.

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