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National Wastewater Surveillance System in Colorado receives prestigious designation


COLORADO. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in collaboration with the University of Denver (DU), has received the prestigious designation as a National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) Center of Excellence (CoE).

“It is both humbling and inspiring to have the hard work of our team recognized,” says Corinne Lengsfeld, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education and Co-Director of the NWSS CoE, who led the wastewater monitoring efforts at the University of Denver. “The partnership between DU and CDPHE allowed for continuous innovation to provide a targeted response. As COVID-19 variants changed, we adapted techniques in real-time. This collaboration provides a foundation of innovation to meet future needs by embracing the missions of both organizations to serve the public good through technological advancements, training, and partnership building.”

CDPHE is one of only two honorees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected for this designation. 

“It is an honor to be recognized for the work our team has invested in wastewater monitoring. Wastewater data, when evaluated in combination with other measures of disease burden, has proven to be a valuable public health surveillance tool during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Allison Wheeler, Waterborne Disease Unit Manager and Co-Director of the NWSS CoE, CDPHE.

Due to the center of excellence designation, the CDPHE and DU will serve as experts on the subject matter. They will provide training, consultation, and resources to other public health entities interested in starting their own wastewater monitoring programs.

The CDPHE will also collaborate with the CDC to develop ways to test for other pathogens in wastewater samples.

They will also work closely with the group in Houston that received the same designation. Together, the groups will develop trainings and model practice documents. As well as evaluate and improve data analytics, and enhance the utility of wastewater data. 

Since August of 2020, CDPHE has worked with Colorado wastewater utilities to monitor COVID-19 in wastewater. Wastewater surveillance allows public health officials to identify the presence of a virus in a community before receiving results from clinical testing. This method helps estimate disease trends within a community because it can capture data on people who are asymptomatic or may not get testing.

At this time, the state’s wastewater program includes 55 participating utilities and we continue to onboard additional utilities throughout the state.

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Emily Arseneau

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