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Pilot project testing London wastewater yields first coronavirus sample: city

London's Greenway wastewater treatment facility. The plant treats some 60 per cent of London's wastewater.
London's Greenway wastewater treatment facility. The plant treats some 60 per cent of London's wastewater. Google Maps

A pilot project testing local wastewater for genetic evidence of the novel coronavirus has come up with its first positive sample, local health and city officials said.

The city and Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) launched the pilot project in July and have been collecting wastewater samples from pollution control plans in the London area since.

On Monday, it was announced that wastewater collected on Sept. 6 from the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats some 60 per cent of the city’s wastewater, had found the pilot project’s first positive sample of the virus, officials said.

Read more: London joins pilot project testing wastewater for coronavirus

The hope of such monitoring, says Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, is that identifying positive samples could help the health unit determine if the virus levels are increasing in the city, or if it’s in areas of the community where it was not thought to be present.

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“We are at a point in the pandemic where we know that COVID-19 is still present in our community,” Mackie said in a statement.

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“This added information can assist in our efforts and would enable us to focus some of our efforts on specific areas of the city.”

The health unit says monitoring will continue to gather more information in assessing the potential benefits of the project.

The pilot project is part of a larger national collaboration, the Canadian Coalition on Wastewater-Related COVID-19 Research, that is being led by the Canadian Water Network.

The initiative involves municipalities, utilities, scientists, public health agencies, and governments from across Canada.

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