The Portland Water District, along with a lab at Saint Joseph’s College, has begun testing wastewater for inactive SARS-CoV-2 particles to better understand surges in Covid-19 cases.
The district, which serves Maine’s largest city, is one of many communities across the nation who are testing wastewater to monitor virus levels.
“Evaluating concentrations at the community level can help us monitor the number of cases including symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, sub-clinical, and asymptomatic cases,” St. Joseph’s principal investigator Yolanda Brooks said in a statement. “I’m excited to kick off this important project.”
The first samples were collected at the Portland and Westbrook wastewater plants and sent to St. Joseph’s for analysis. The district is planning a three-month testing program with the support of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Human Services. The results will be shared at the end.
The program aims to improve detection limits, address rural challenges, and lower the cost of sampling. If the project does well, it will be shared with other water districts in Maine.