Wastewater COVID-19 testing aims to detect community spikes early on


MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)– In March, Mount Pleasant Waterworks joined eleven wastewater treatment facilities across the country to collect samples for a study conducted by SCDHEC and the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.

Mount Pleasant Waterworks operations manager, Allan Clum said wastewater samples show the presence of COVID-19 in the influent, or raw, sewage collected by the facility and intend to provide information about a community’s health.

“A lot of the medical tests and data we have may be missing the asymptomatic portion of our community,” he said. “With raw sewage you can test that,” he added.

The project is being led by University of South Carolina environmental health sciences professor, Sean Norman.

“Data from his research will soon feed into a computer model developed by the Centers for Disease Control to calculate how many people in a given community have the virus. Once validated, the model could prove useful in predicting future waves of the virus,” said USC communications and public affairs director, Chris Horn.

MPW provides 2 liters of wastewater each week. The data is then processed by USC and reported back to the water processing facility.

In July, MPW reported a spike in the virus’ presence in the samples.

“Near the end of June and the end of July we had a very large increase of COVID,” Clum said. “We relayed that directly to the holiday weekends July 4th and Memorial Day. We have yet to see the data from Labor day weekend,” he continued.

Clum assured the water processing treatment kills the virus before it is discharged into the harbor.

“The treatment plant is very effective at killing and destroying the virus so we have tested our effluent or the water discharge, that water has no COVID in it so the treatment plant is very effective at removing it and preventing it from getting into the environment,” Clum said.

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