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Columbia Water Partners with USC on Wastewater Surveillance for Coronavirus

By April 22, 2020No Comments

Columbia, SC – April 22, 2020 – Columbia Water has recently agreed to collaborate with researchers at the University of South Carolina to monitor wastewater for coronavirus at the Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant. According to Professor Sean Norman, who is leading the team from USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, the research will be used to help determine how extensive the virus might be in South Carolina.

As part of the project, researchers will sample and test untreated sewage from the Metro Plant on a weekly basis for a year to determine how much coronavirus is in the waste. The first round of tests began last week.

“We are pleased to support any and all research into fighting the coronavirus and are working with Professor Norman and his team to give them the tools they need to do the investigation,” said Clint Shealy, Assistant City Manager over Columbia Water. “We have worked with Professor Norman on multiple projects in the past in the protection of public health.”

In the first round of testing, coronavirus was discovered in the untreated sewage. However, its presence is not surprising according to Shealy.

“It is not uncommon to find traces of various virus in untreated wastewater,” said Shealy. “However, our disinfection treatment processes, be it for drinking water or wastewater, are extremely effective in eliminating viruses and other pathogens including coronavirus. Environmental protection is a primary focus for Columbia Water, and we make every effort to protect our beautiful and scenic Congaree River.”

According to the Water Environment Federation and the Centers for Disease Control, contracting coronavirus through exposure to wastewater is unlikely. In fact, there is no confirmed wastewater transmission of coronavirus to date. Even so, the safety of the public continues to be the number one priority for Columbia Water.

That includes worker protection according to Shealy. “It is critically important to keep our workers safe, which is why we provide appropriate personal protective equipment and a safe working environment to protect our staff from pathogens and viruses every day.”

For more information on wastewater treatment, please visit www.wef.org. For more information on what Columbia Water is doing to continue to provide safe drinking water and wastewater treatment, please visit www.columbiascwater.net/COVID19.

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