Springfield’s wastewater used to predict the track of COVID-19

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield is using wastewater to see if there are any traces of COVID-19.

The assistant director of Environmental Services for the City of Springfield Ron Petering says the city is partnering with the state and the University of Missouri to use the city’s wastewater to track trends of COVID-19.

“There are certain tracers that are present in wastewater that have been used to track other diseases or viruses in the past,” said Petering. “So, now, this study is looking to use that same technology and trying to track the presence of COVID in a community.”

The tracers Petering says they are looking for are not believed to be carrying the virus.

“If somebody is infected with the virus, as they process food and create fecal matter, there are certain tracers that are shed from their body, then carried into the wastewater stream,” said Petering. “They can look at the cumulative amount of these tracers that are present and based on again whether that very small sample is trending up or down, they can approximate, maybe, a number of cases that translates into the community.”

Here’s how it works:

The city takes samples of the incoming wastewater at both of its treatment plants.

Those samples are sent off to a University of Missouri lab that can detect the COVID-19 tracers.

The study eventually hopes to help health officials prepare for potential spikes in cases before they happen

“The hope is that it gives data points on how many people might have it but, again, aren’t exhibiting symptoms,” said Petering. “But also that is maybe as a leading indicator there’s some evidence that it might be able to spot the trends in the wastewater before they manifest themselves in the number of cases in the community.”

The city has participated in a number of pilot programs of this study and now it’ll be expanding to other communities across the state starting in July.

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