Waste-Water Testing Used To Help Trace Covid-19 Will Not Be Done Locally

Nico Payne

Testing waste-water for strands of Covid-19 is becoming a common practice in surrounding California cities. Officials tell NBC Palm Springs it depends on the set-up of the water-treatment facility and where samples can be taken.

The Coachella Valley Water district tells me they will not be implementing waste-water testing anytime soon because the set-up and testing at their facility simply wouldn’t work.

Wastewater testing has become another tool used to fight the spread of Covid-19. It involves testing the water supply of a community to paint a picture of how widespread the virus is, and whether infections are rising or falling.

“As water goes down the drain through the pipes they are able to test that water to determine if covid-19 is present in the community and then trace it back to specific areas,” said Katie Evans, Director of Communications and Conservation with Coachella Valley Water District.

But experts say The Coachella Valley is not set up for this type of testing, as water plants in the desert are not set up in a centralized way.

“If you have a wastewater treatment plant that serves five or six cities, which we do, you might test the water at that plant but not be able to determine where it came from, and so then that information really would not be useful,” explained Evans.

Waste-water testing has been successful in other parts of the country, specifically on college campuses.

“There’s a really good correlation between the presence of the virus in wastewater and the prevalence as an infectious disease the number of people who are infected now plays a big role in determining how many people will become infected in the near future,” said Ben Dalziel, Project Lader.

It has acted as a type of contact tracing and even prevent wide-scale outbreaks.

“If you look for the virus in the sewage, you’re really looking at a reflection of the total viral load that’s coming from the community in the sewage,” said Ian Pepper, Professor of Environmental Science, University of Arizona.

But here in The Coachella Valley, well have to rely on ion other ways to combat this disease.

“At this time we are keeping a really close eye on it to see if it is something that we would want to do, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be practical in our area,” said Evans.

And a plea from The Coachella Valley Water District, to only flush toilet paper down the pipe as they are experiencing clogging of their sanitization pumps, they say just because it says it’s flushable, doesn’t mean that it is.

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