DC Water, the water treatment agency that services the metropolitan region, is partnering with fellow water-treatment agencies nationwide to study sewage to help determine coronavirus hot spots.
The study will examine fecal samples taken from the waste stream, which “can indicate the presence of a COVID-19 infection even if the person is showing no symptoms and may not even be aware they are sick,” DC Water said in a statement.
“COVID-19 is the health issue of our lifetime and I am proud that DC Water can participate in a study as critical as this one to learn more about this virus and find ways to prevent it from taking even more precious lives,” said David L. Gadis, the agency’s CEO and general manager.
The thrust of the program is to get broad samples so health officials can see spikes in the virus before an outbreak becomes uncontrollable.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is expected to oversee the program. In the first phase, the DHHS’s goal is for samples from 100 treatment plants that serve about 10% of the U.S. population, D.C. Water said.
The second phase calls for the program’s expansion to monitoring 42 states serving 30% of the population.