Consolidating wastewater surveillance

Date: Thursday, September 21, 2023

A Metro Plant lab technician removes a plastic carton from an automatic wastewater sampler equipment.The Metropolitan Council has played a key role in recent years in monitoring and analyzing wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the metro area. Working as partners with the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, we reported weekly, since January 2022, on the prevalence of viral RNA in wastewater flowing to the Metro Plant, an important indicator of the virus spread.

Every week, thousands of people looked to the Met Council’s online dashboard and website for information on the rise and fall of the viral load, relying on wastewater as the tool for identifying trends as the use of at-home tests increased.

But Met Council and state officials say it’s time to transition and consolidate testing and analysis as the state updates and centralizes its COVID-19 wastewater reporting system.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the University of Minnesota’s Medical School are consolidating all wastewater monitoring in the state through the Center for Disease Control’s National Wastewater Surveillance System.

Their work will combine testing done in the metro area with a statewide monitoring system capable of detecting a variety of viruses in the general population, including COVID-19.

“The work of analyzing and reporting on the prevalence of the SARS CoV-2 virus in the region’s wastewater has been important and rewarding,” said Met Council Environmental Services director Leisa Thompson. “We’ve learned so much about how wastewater surveillance can and will contribute to public health. The Met Council will continue to participate in this vital partnership, by continuing to provide samples from the abundance of wastewater that we collect and treat.”

Met Council officials say it’s appropriate, going forward, that the work is in the hands of the public health organizations.

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Posted In: Wastewater & Water

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