Wastewater Surveillance for COVID-19

Using Wastewater-Based Epidemiology as an Early Warning System for Disease Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with agencies throughout the federal government, are initiating the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data generated will help public health officials to better understand the extent of the COVID-19 infection.

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Why Wastewater Sampling?
  • Wastewater can be tested for RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Such data can be used as an early warning system for infections within communities and organizations.
  • SARS-CoV-2 can be shed in the feces of individuals with pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.
  • SARS-CoV-2 can be found up to 3 days in advance of symptoms through wastewater testing allowing agencies more response time.
  • Wastewater sampling is a non-invasive and cost-effective mechanism to monitor the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
  • Data from wastewater testing is not designed to replace existing COVID-19 surveillance systems; but is meant to complement them.
  • Government facilities including federal, state and municipal offices.
  • Large institutional facilities such as: production sites, businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, schools and universities, military basis, among others.
  • Sanitary sewer districts.
How D&B can assist
  • Development of Site-Specific Sampling Plans.
  • Implementing cost effective, short-term and long-term sampling programs.
  • Identifying applicable laboratory(s) for SARS-CoV-2 analysis in wastewater.
  • Data interpretation and trend analysis.

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), or sewershed surveillance, is the analysis of wastewater to identify presence of biologicals or chemicals for the purpose of monitoring public health. WBE has previously been used to detect the presence of pharmaceutical or industrial waste, drugs, viruses and potential emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Recent studies showed that detecting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in wastewater can be a low-cost solution for tracking COVID-19 outbreaks.

Want to learn more about methods for concentration, extraction and detection of viral RNA in sewershed water? We’re here to help!

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Detecting SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater: An Early Warning System for COVID-19

The earliest report of wastewater surveillance to track COVID-19 was a study by the KWR Water Research Institute in March 2020. They found the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater samples in the Netherlands. The report came within a week after the first case of COVID-19 in the country was confirmed. Since then, there have been numerous examples of using WBE to track COVID-19.

Although WBE cannot identify which individuals have been infected, it has several advantages compared to patient testing.

Advantages of Wastewater Surveillance

Viral Detection in Wastewater: The Future of Outbreak Prevention

Currently, our response to infectious disease outbreaks depends on the detection of disease after an outbreak has already occurred. By continually monitoring viruses in sewershed water, we can be proactive in identifying potential outbreaks before they occur.

Protocol for Detecting Coronavirus RNA in Wastewater

Developing a COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance Sampling Strategy

CDC PLACEHOLDER TEXT: Use this guidance to implement wastewater-based disease surveillance. Wastewater-based disease surveillance is a rapidly developing science, and CDC will continue to update guidance and information as it becomes available.

Sample Collection

Viral detection in sewage begins by collecting wastewater samples in sewersheds, where water drains into a single point of the sewage system.

Data Analysis

The results are analyzed and compared with ongoing levels of viral load within the areas of collection.

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Contact D&B

D&B is an environmental engineering firm licensed to practice engineering in New York State. We have been serving the needs of public and private clients in the tri-state area since our inception in 1965. For a no-cost, no-obligation technical consultation, please contact:

Woodbury, NY
Frank DeVita, Vice President
Office: 516-364-9890 ext. 3064

Robbin A. Petrella
Office: Senior Associate, 516-364-9890 ext. 3049

Practice Area Leaders

Frank DeVita
Vice President