The City of London recently participated in an initiative to test local wastewater for evidence of the COVID-19 virus, which will help provide an early indication if cases are increasing in the community.

As part of this testing, the City of London shared samples from the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats 60 per cent of London’s wastewater. Samples from the plant were taken each day between July 16, 2020 and July 19, 2020.  These samples were then analyzed by a team led by R. Michael McKay (Ph.D.), executive director and professor at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor.

The samples yielded no evidence of the genetic signal of the COVID-19 virus.

“This is an exciting and innovative technology available to London,” said Scott Mathers, director of water and wastewater at the City of London. “These early results are encouraging and will provide the Middlesex-London Health Unit and London’s hospitals additional information to help fight the virus.”

The project at the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant follows a framework that has been used globally and has produced promising results for the early detection of potential community infections.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is supportive of the project. The pilot project is taking place as part of the City of London and Middlesex-London Health Unit’s participation in the Canadian Coalition on Wastewater-Related COVID-19 Research. This initiative is a national collaboration of municipalities, utilities, scientists, public health agencies, and governments led by the Canadian Water Network.

The science to monitor wastewater for COVID-19 is still in its infancy. The negative samples do not indicate that the virus in no longer in the community, according to the City of London. The City reminds residents to continue maintaining physical distancing and following all social gathering guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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Header Image Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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