P.E.I. turns to wastewater for COVID-19 information

Following the lead of other jurisdictions, some communities on P.E.I. may soon be sampling wastewater as a way to keep tabs on COVID-19 in the community.

Charlottetown could begin testing for the virus in wastewater within the next few weeks

Public health officials said details about sampling wastewater will be worked out in the coming weeks. Other jurisdictions with lower individual testing capacity have been testing wastewater for a while to measure levels of the virus in the community. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Some communities on P.E.I. may soon be looking for information about COVID-19 in wastewater. 

Several jurisdictions across the country already sample wastewater in an effort to collect data on how the virus is moving through their communities. 

Officials with the City of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility started discussions with P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Monday about the possibility of wastewater monitoring for the virus.

P.E.I. has not had wastewater surveillance up to this point, because the province had a rigorous testing system for COVID-19.

However, the volume of testing has been reduced in recent weeks as part of the easing of pandemic measures. 

Richard MacEwen, manager of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility said the utility is eager to help.

"We collect samples on a daily basis for our own work and monitoring, and we also collect samples of our wastewater and make sure that we are achieving the level of treatment that we need," MacEwen said.

"So it shouldn't be too much more work for us to collect the samples and send them off to the lab."

Public health officials said details about sampling procedures and protocols will be worked out in the coming weeks. 

MacEwen said any samples would likely be collected in the front end of the system, before the water goes through any treatment process, but they are doing more research on how Charlottetown might best take on the challenge. 

"P.E.I. has been very fortunate with the level of actual individual testing that we have been able to achieve, but wastewater in other jurisdictions has provided great information on public health in other municipalities where maybe they haven't been able to achieve the level of testing we could here on P.E.I.," he said. 

MacEwen said he thinks the process could get underway in the next few weeks.

With files from Angela Walker


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