The EPA is involved in a pilot project that looks into sewage testing as an indicator of the presence of coronavirus infections in entire communities, informs Bloomberg.
The research project is carried out with the city of Cincinnati in Ohio, and will last six months. The EPA aims to develop a method to test for the coronavirus in the coming four to six weeks, at the same time as the pilot project gets going, said Jay Garland, a senior scientist in the Office of Research and Development of the EPA. He expects the results will “help target testing and hopefully inform public health decisions”.
Knowledge requirements include how long the virus can survive in wastewater, procedures for consistent testing, as well as how to handle wastewater systems with combined sewers, where domestic wastewater is mixed with industrial wastewater or stormwater prior to entering the treatment plant. In this regard, Cincinatti has both combined and separate sewer systems, so it is a useful location to carry out the research.
The EPA’s work will be done in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other ongoing work. Garland said the agency is “trying to build networks for monitoring on a broader scale”.
Furthermore, the EPA is involved in several research projects related to the coronavirus, specifically dealing with disinfection (disinfection of large areas, applying long-lasting disinfectants, PPE disinfection), and with wastewater treatment methods and their effectiveness against the coronavirus. The agency plans to make the final reports public.
At the beginning of May, the EPA Science Advisory Board completed a draft report to Andrew Wheeler on priorities for research related to the coronavirus. For instance, on protocols for coronavirus sampling in the environment.