LOGAN – Some of the most interesting research being done when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic is connected to a pilot program conducted by Utah’s Division of Water Quality. The study analyzes waste water.
On KVNU’s For the People program on Wednesday, senior scientist Jeff Ostermiller was our guest. He said the findings have been very useful.
“Essentially, what the project set out to do – and we’ve now expanded the pilot to go statewide based on the results of successes of that program – but essentially what we do is we collect a sample at the influent to various wastewater treatment plants, and then we run a test that’s nearly identical to the test that’s used to identify whether or not patients are infected,” he explained.
Ostermiller said when it comes to this type of analysis, Utah is ahead of just about every state in the country, but this work has been going on all around the world.
“You can actually see an increase when you see these, sort of, hot spots or these major inflection points where an outbreak occurs in a community. We can spot that in the sewage approximately five to maybe seven days prior to it being noticed in patients.”
He said, obviously, health departments have a big interest in that, particularly in some of the rural communities in the state where it might be necessary to get additional testing equipment or additional medical infrastructure out as quickly as you can.
Ostermiller said they’re still not at the point where they can pinpoint down to a building or neighborhood exactly where a potential outbreak is going to happen. But the research is ongoing.