The city of Bloomington says results of a wastewater monitoring program suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater one week earlier than a surge in hospital cases is experienced. The study shows wastewater sampling is likely most useful for identifying hot spots and community trends in conjunction with viral testing results, as well as monitoring for new outbreaks after a vaccine is deployed.
The city says advance detection of COVID-19 in wastewater will provide additional time for communities to react and potentially contain the spread of the virus.
“This study demonstrates that wastewater sampling can be a valuable tool for detecting and predicting viral prevalence in our community,” said Mayor John Hamilton.
The program tested the city’s wastewater for 10 weeks starting in August. Wastewater professionals from Bloomington Utilities collected samples three times a week at eight sites across Bloomington, including each of the two wastewater treatment plants. The city says testing was performed by several independent laboratories in an effort to measure “viral prevalence in the community.”
According to the city, wastewater testing is particularly valuable while access is limited for individual testing.
“We hope to continue the sampling program to monitor progress as vaccines become widely available,” said Utilities Director Vic Kelson.
Funded by the Indiana Finance Authority, the city says testing was coordinated by Zionsville-based 120Water, a drinking water utility technology firm. Samples were analyzed by 120Water along with a team at the University of Notre Dame.
Bloomington was one of 14 Indiana communities with college or university campuses participating in the study.
You can view the final report by clicking here.