COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Colorado Springs Utilities is partnering with other utilities around the state to collect wastewater samples and test them for COVID-19.
According to CSU, wastewater surveillance has been used in the past to determine the prevalence of polio and opioid use across communities.
Wastewater samples contain feces, which could show coronavirus infection before symptoms develop. It could also indicate coronavirus prevalence in people who are asymptomatic.
The goal is to eventually have more comprehensive coronavirus data for state health officials to make decisions.
The Colorado Department of Public Health is working to set up agreements with 16 different utility companies across Colorado, making up 60-65% of the state population.
Wastewater samples will be collected twice a week at each location. Samples will then be sent to a local university for testing.
A $520,000 state grant is funding the university testing. According to Colorado Springs Utilities, each wastewater test for COVID-19 costs $1,200.
“So we have special equipment that takes 24 hours of testing. So it will take a small amount every hour out of our wastewater and composite it," Rick Johnson, lab manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, said.
Wastewater collection is something CSU does all the time. But Johnson says heavy rainfall could dilute samples.
"At halftime at the Super Bowl when everyone flushes their toilet, that’s all coming out of people, and that’s a great time to test,” Johnson said.
Right now, samples are taken from one of Colorado Springs' two wastewater treatment plants. But CSU says the goal is to eventually be able to test different neighborhoods to pinpoint COVID-19 prevalence in specific parts of town.