• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Testing of sewage samples may indicate rise in COVID cases

DES MOINES, Iowa — Over the summer, the city of Des Moines participated in a study where sewage samples were taken to see the concentration of COVID-19 in the water.

Just last week, the Des Moines Metro Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA) recorded the highest virus concentration throughout the study, which can be found here. The purpose of the study is to see what the number of COVID-19 cases in the region might look like.

The last time the WRA recorded a peak in virus concentration in sewage was in September, which coincided with the peak in COVID-19 cases during the month. A WRA employee said the results last week were unexpected.

“It was a little surprising. We hope that, like all datasets, this will just be an anomaly,” said Larry Hare, WRF processing manager at the Des Moines Metro Wastewater Reclamation Authority. We’ll find out in the coming week. We’ll have more data to tie into that and see if the uptrend is that strong.”

The reason the results came as a shock is that the virus concentration in sewage has declined since September. But the rise in concentration may hint at another rise in cases in the near future.

“It’s part of our mission statement at the Wastewater Reclamation Authority to protect public health,” Hare said. “That’s why we’re doing this. We protect public health, we let them know what’s going on, what’s in their wastewater.

More test results will come from a sample later this week. The WRA publishes results every two weeks and they can be found here.