Just over a dozen states regularly report wastewater data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Monitoring System, Politico report. The system, launched in 2020, collects data on levels of the coronavirus at wastewater treatment plants around the country. But with most states not participating, the agency can’t get a clear picture of how the virus is spreading nationally.
Wastewater is a Valuable public health tool for the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not rely on people being present to test or report results from tests done at home. Virus levels in wastewater also tend to rise before disease cases start to rise, so it’s an early warning sign for increased spread. Early signs of omicron variant such as occurrence in wastewater and recent data from the beginning of March is showing an increase of the virus even as reported COVID-19 cases remain low. Wastewater can also be used for other public health problems future – like detecting other viruses like influenza or monitoring illegal drug use in the community.
But right now, just California, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin have wastewater data connected to the National Wastewater Monitoring System (NWSS). Many of these states have only a handful of discharge points that regularly report data.
CDC Spokesperson told Politico that NWSS can still be useful even if it is not used by all states. The spokesperson said that it is still valid for places that are collecting data. However, the inconsistency means it’s another pandemic tool of unevenness – and patchwork response has been a consistent feature of the often inadequate response to disease outbreaks in the United States.
Countries have many reasons not to participate in wastewater monitoring programmes, Politico noticed: some lack of manpower to build the system. Some have difficulty getting local wastewater treatment plants on board with sample collection and submission. The CDC has partnered with a private commercial lab, LuminUltra, to assist the states, but some have been wary of working with the company.
The scattered and slow response to CDC calls for more wastewater monitoring increases the risk that the United States misses out on an opportunity to build a new public health tool. “Don’t waste what we’ve done,” says Erik Coats, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Idaho. Politico.
https://www.theverge.com/2022/3/14/22977756/cdc-wastewater-monitoring-covid-national-states National wastewater monitoring system with participation of only a few states