Jupiter treatment plant uses wastewater to predict COVID spikes

2021-12-23 07:38:46 By : Ms. Admin Yomaker

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Most people don’t want to know what’s in the water flowing through a wastewater treatment plant.

Albrey Arrington isn’t most people.

“We realized that we can sample our wastewater to understand what is the prevalence of COVID so that people in our community can make informed decisions,” Arrington said.

Arrington is the executive director of the Loxahatchee River District, a state agency that runs a wastewater treatment plant in Jupiter.

The agency services about 100,000 people in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin Counties.

Since May of 2000, the Loxahatchee River District has been testing the water at the plant twice a month to check for levels of COVID-19.

When they got their latest results on Wednesday, they weren’t good.

“The data that we just received are the highest values we’ve seen in all of the testing we’ve done,” Arrington said.

So what does that mean?

Arrington said when a person who has COVID-19 uses the bathroom, some of the virus comes out.

Once the toilet is flushed, that water containing the virus then goes to the treatment plant.

When the plant’s tests show a lot of COVID-19 in the water, “That strongly suggests that there’s high presence of COVID in our community right now,” Arrington said.

But Arrington also pointed out it’s not necessarily a reflection of COVID-19 cases we’re seeing right now.

He said an infected person starts shedding COVID-19 about five days before showing symptoms.

Arrington believes the elevated levels of COVID-19 in the wastewater are an indication of a spike we’re going to see in the next ten days to two weeks.

“We know that the rate of infection and the rate of sickness in the community is going to follow,” he said.

And Arrington said they’ve been right before, with elevated levels of COVID-19 in wastewater predicting a spike in cases in the summer of 2020 and the summer of 2021.

Another spike could be on the way.

“We saw the early wave. We saw the delta wave,” Arrington said. “And now it appears we can see the omicron wave.”

All of the results from the testing at the Loxahatchee River District can be seen on their website.

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