Utah sewage study helps track spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus Updates

LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Coronavirus has been found in sewage, allowing the state to find it in a community before individuals are actually tested. These findings come after a pilot program the Department of Environmental Quality conducted to respond to the pandemic and protect public health.

The Logan Sewage Lagoon is just one of 10 waste water treatment plants and three universities in Utah working with the DEQ for a pilot study to find coronavirus within communities.

“Those include facilities along the Wasatch front, the urban corridor as well as areas that are less populated in the state,”  said the Director, Division of Water Quality, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Erica Gaddis.

These facilities collected raw waste water, before it was treated, according to Gaddis of the DEQ. Gaddis said they saw the jump of COVID-19 cases in Cache Valley, before the Bear River Health Department reported  the recent spike.

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“We can see that the trends that we see in our data are broadly consistent with infection rates across the state,” said Gaddis.

Gaddis said the next steps will be to use this new tool and tie it with public health and implement it with more treatment plants across the state.

“One of those applications could be looking for those rising infections, ahead of when public health officials sees them in those case counts,” she added.

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Gaddis said this tool can also find emerging hot-spots, without violating residents’ privacy.

“In one sample, you can basically get a sense of the whole community because it’s kind of an integrated sample,” she added.

She said they’re looking to implement this in 40 treatment plants across the state for another 3 months before the end of the year.

Gaddis said the state is grateful for the front line workers who are testing these specimen to ensure the public’s safety.

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