The federal government plans to start surveying America's wastewater to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that they are creating a national database on wastewater data. The agencies are asking state and local health departments to conduct tests on their own and submit the data in a portal, which is currently under development.
The data generated by the surveillance system "will help public health officials to better understand the extent of COVID-19 infections in communities," the CDC said.
CDC has said previously that COVID-19 doesn’t show up in pools or hot tubs, but it has been detected in untreated wastewater.
Tests for the coronavirus in wastewater from the Greater Augusta Utility District confirmed a small presence of the virus that coincided with two people testing positive in Kennebec County, officials said.
Two tests of wastewater samples showed no detectable levels of the virus but a third test yielded a small concentration of the virus, officials said.
“We want to be mindful that COVID-19 is a part of our daily lives. Wastewater testing and monitoring of the results will continue to guide our efforts to return to the new normal,” said Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo.
The tests were conducted by Massachusetts-based Biobot, which tests sewage for Genetic fragments of the virus in human waste.
The water district serves thousands of home and businesses in Augusta, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth and Winthrop.