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Testing begins on London wastewater for evidence of COVID-19 virus

London has recently participated in an initiative to test local wastewater for evidence of the COVID-19 virus, which will help provide an early indicator if cases are increasing in the community.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is supportive of the project which follows a framework that has been used globally and has produced promising results for the early detection of potential community infections.

As part of this testing, the City of London recently shared samples from the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant which treats 60% of London’s wastewater. Samples from the plant were taken each day between July 16 and July 19.  These samples were then analyzed by a team led by R. Michael McKay, Ph.D. Executive Director and Professor at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor.

The samples yielded no evidence of the genetic signal of the COVID-19 virus.

“This is an exciting and innovative technology available to London,” says Scott Mathers, Director of Water and Wastewater at the City of London. “These early results are encouraging and will provide the Middlesex-London Health Unit and London’s hospitals additional information to help fight the virus.”

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

The science to monitor wastewater for COVID-19 is still in its infancy and these negative samples do not indicate that the virus in no longer in the community. The City is reminding residents to please continue to maintain physical distancing and follow all social gathering guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19.