UPDATE: Sewage Testing as a COVID-19 Hot Spot Tracker

May 27, 2020
DESCRIPTION: It’s been clear for many weeks that many parts of the United States are nowhere near where they would have to be with coronavirus testing and contact tracing to offer a smooth path to reopening communities.

That means every possible tool needs aggressive examination and deployment where feasible – including what’s called wastewater epidemiology, through which it’s possible to monitor for everything from viruses to drug use by sampling water and waste flowing through the sewage systems of towns or cities.

A host of efforts are underway to apply, test and refine ways to apply this method to monitoring SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought life as we knew it to a halt in so many parts of the world.

We discuss a new Yale study that, while not yet through peer review, supports earlier work showing the potential to use wastewater monitoring as an early-warning system – a vital means of focusing more intensive testing and public-health interventions.

The study is here:

This session builds on an earlier Sustain What webcast, on April 23 ( and a special symposium held by the Water Research Foundation (

The guests from Yale are:

Jordan Peccia, the Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Professor of Environmental Engineering
Saad B. Omer, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health and Associate Dean for Global Health Research

From Arizona State University:

Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at the Biodesign Institute

Devin Bowes, co-founder of the institute’s One Water One Health initiative.

With Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist focused on the coronavirus, Ebola, and the other big looming threats, and Howard Frumkin, emeritus professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington and former director of the National Center for Environmental Health.