COVID-19 Wastewater Treatment Plant Testing

Kendal~Crosslands Communities is joining many research groups worldwide who are analyzing wastewater for COVID-19.  Researchers in Paris, the Netherlands, and recently studies in the U.S. among others are testing raw influent into wastewater treatment plants as one way to estimate the total number of infections in a community.  And, as regions begin to open and relax their stay-at-home measures, this method could be used to detect a coronavirus re-surge.

“Kendal~Crosslands Communities is unique in that we have a dedicated wastewater treatment plant that operates three (Kendal at Longwood, Crosslands, and Cartmel) of our campuses”, says Seth Beaver, Director of Facilities and Capital Projects.  “Other city wastewater treatment plants might find this testing methodology complex to pinpoint coronavirus outbreaks since typically public plants service large metropolitan areas; however, we are unique in that our plant is strictly for our community”, says Beaver.

engineer taking sample at wastewater plant

Locus Environmental President, Heath taking samples at the intake area at the wastewater treatment plant at Kendal~Crosslands Communities

Testing is one strategy for detecting the novel virus and with it, there continues to be swab tests capacity challenges and, in some cases, false/positive results so testing wastewater for the coronavirus could provide an additional way to spot cases.  A resident at the community first brought the idea to Beaver’s attention and after much discussion and investigation, the community chartered the path to this unique detection of COVID.  Kendal~Crosslands Communities partnered with a Boston-based company, Biobot, who has joined forces with researchers at MIT and Harvard.  “Biobot sends us the test kits and then we contracted with a local environmental consulting firm, Locus to collect 24-hour composite samples who then sends them back to Biobot for analysis,” says Beaver. The Biobot team processes the sewage samples and test results are sent to the community via a report. After 6 weeks of sampling, the community is happy to report that wastewater samples indicate no one is currently shedding the virus.

“We understand this is experimental, but since we have an exclusive wastewater treatment facility that services only our residents and staff members at the community, we will try it and do whatever we need to do to keep everyone safe”, says Lisa Marsilio, Chief Executive Officer.  “If we can use this method to help prevent an outbreak and give us more information to assist with decisions on protective and preventative strategies, we will”, says Marsilio. Kendal~Crosslands Communities realizes that experimental wastewater testing is only one testing method necessary to find cases and most importantly, to maintain vigilant and proven infectious disease control practices such as masks, social distancing, hand washing, and wearing appropriate PPE.