Capture Sampling wastewater in a local sewer system is one way to study the spread of COVID-19. Updated results from a treatment center in Jupiter may shed light on the amount of virus present in the community.
The Loxahatchee River Environmental Control District has partnered with the Biobot research lab to monitor COVID-19 in the region’s wastewater.
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Bud Howard, the district’s director of information services, said they were taking samples every two weeks.
Wastewater monitoring “helps scientists and public health officials better understand global trends in COVID-19”, which is trending upwards.
Howard spoke with Wilkine Brutus of WLRN about the latest findings.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
WLRN: You have new results from your recent wastewater tests. What were the results and do you see an increase?
HOWARD: The short answer is that our results show an increase in the crude concentration of virus fragments in our wastewater. And so if you look at the specific numbers, it’s about a 20% increase. But the important thing to understand here is that Biobot provides us with two different numbers. One of them is the raw viral concentration in the wastewater, and the other is what they call a normalized viral concentration, where they look at the amount of feces and then adjust the concentration of the virus relative to the concentration of feces. .
And I think the take-home message on this is, it’s important – and that’s the advice we’re getting from the scientists at Biobot as well as the scientific community at large on this type of monitoring, is that there are many factors that can affect these values - and so it is important not to focus too much on specific numbers when it comes to subtle changes, but it is the larger fluctuations in the data and trends that are very important. important.
There are a lot of viruses in the wastewater and therefore in our community.
Obviously, there are several nuances when looking at data. Are you concerned about this new data that came out recently?
Absoutely. I mean, I think the disappointing part for all of us is that these values show a lot of viruses in our community. And because people shed so much virus very early in the infection, they may not even realize that they have recovered. Yet our bodies excrete hundreds of thousands, millions of these virus fragments every time we use the toilet.
And so, five days, if I start to feel bad, I have already lost a lot of viruses. I think the most compelling part of this data is that we are seeing a glimpse of what’s to come. So we know that there is going to be an ongoing situation where we have a lot of people in our community who have COVID.
[Does] this monitoring of COVID wastewater in a wastewater treatment plant, picking up homes on a septic tank?
No. In homes that are serviced by a septic system, this wastewater actually ends up coming out through their septic system and into a field full of drains and then seeping into the ground. This type of monitoring is most effective in a central sewer system where the wastewater leaving our homes and businesses goes through a network pipes and then arrives at a sewage treatment plant. And this is the case that we have here.
We serve Jupiter, Tequesta and parts of Juno Beach. And so nice from the northern Palm Beach County area.
The CDC says wastewater monitoring for COVID is a developing area. How useful are these new data in terms of public health decisions and actions?
It is important to understand that there are different types of wastewater treatment systems where in other parts of the country the rainwater that drains from your street may actually go to the treatment plant. used waters. But in Florida, because we get so much rain, they’re separate systems. Our storm water system that manages precipitation is separate from our sewage system that collects wastewater from our homes and businesses.
So in our case this is really good information, although I think it helps shed some light on some of the variability. If we get a really heavy rain, when our system isn’t perfect, water can seep through manhole covers and things like that and cause further dilution.
It’s important not to just look at the numbers and say, “Oh, there was a six and a half percent increase in numbers on this more sample. It’s like this number is really high and we need to be aware that there is still a lot of COVID in our community.