COVID-19 detected in local wastewater

Greenway Wastewater Treatment Centre in London. Photo from Google Maps Street View.

A waste sample taken from London sewage has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit said on Monday that the sample is the first to test positive for the virus since it began participating in a pilot project with the City of London to test local wastewater.

The health unit began testing London’s wastewater at local pollution control plants in July to determine if the data could be used as an early indicator if COVID-19 cases are increasing in the community.

“By testing wastewater and identifying positive COVID-19 samples through this project, we can get a sense of areas in the community where we may not have known the virus was present,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the local medical officer of health, in a news release. “This added information can assist in our efforts and would enable us to focus some of our efforts on specific areas of the city.”

While the science of detecting COVID-19 in wastewater is still preliminary, the health unit said the recent positive sample shows that this type of monitoring could be useful to health officials.

The health unit added it will continue monitoring London’s wastewater to further assess the potential benefits of the pilot project in the community.

The pilot project is being conducted as part of the Middlesex Health Unit’s participation in the Canadian Coalition on Wastewater-Related COVID-19 Research, a national collaboration of municipalities, utilities, scientists, public health agencies, and governments led by the Canadian Water Network.