The City of Hagerstown’ s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), in separate studies with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been collecting wastewater samples from the plant since January in order to analyze them for signs of and tendencies related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the City’s wastewater.
Through what is termed “wastewater surveillance” (also known as wastewater-based epidemiology), which examines the genetic sequences found in sewage and tests for metabolites of COVID-19, the detection of variants of the virus within a community has enabled scientists to identify potential surges, hot spots, and trends regardless of testing levels or hospital capacity.
Essentially, what is learned can provide an early warning of COVID-19’s potential spread. The wastewater is able to capture cases that may be pre- or asymptomatic in nature, too. As such, the information has proven to be an invaluable tool for the Washington County Health Department, who receives reports from the WWTP study weekly to monitor the results and determine whether additional precautions need to be implemented.
The analytics are accessible to the public via the following link: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#wastewater-surveillance.
Selecting “Maryland-Washington County” will pull up the local site and can be expanded to show the normalized data relative to local flow and population.
The City’s WWTP is the only facility in the area participating in such a study.