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Audrain Health clarifies wastewater test results regarding COVID-19

Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 7:13 pm

With the news that the COVID-19 Delta (India) variant has been detected in wastewater samples taken from the City of Mexico wastewater treatment plant, the Audrain County Health Department (ACHD) finds it prudent to issue a clarification on what this report means and what it means to the general public.

“Wastewater and drinking water are two completely different utilities that do not cross paths in the process of delivering them or removing them from or to the general public,” stated ACHD Environmental Public Health Specialist II Sarah Palmer. “The public drinking water in the City of Mexico is in no way compromised or at risk of being infected with COVID-19 as it is the wastewater samples where the COVID-19 remnants (genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19) were found.”

In fact, even the wastewater is not infectious.

“These are remnants of the virus that residents, and non-residents, are shedding through their daily use of the public wastewater system,” Palmer stated. “There is no danger to the public that they will become infected with COVID-19 if they come in contact with wastewater where virus particles have been found. There are no live viruses in the samples that were taken from the city’s wastewater.”

In Missouri, COVID-19 sewage surveillance sampling is being conducted in more than 50 community sewersheds across the state. Tracking the amount of genetic material in wastewater can provide early awareness of the virus in communities. This data cannot tell the number of individuals currently infected with COVID-19 but can be useful in identifying trends and aid in public health prevention strategies.

“We will continue to monitor the wastewater treatment plant reports from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services,” ACHD Administrator/CEO Craig Brace said. “We want the public to be assured their drinking water supply is in no way compromised by these findings. This is a but another tool we can use in our toolbox that helps us to track and continue the fight against COVID-19.”