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COVID-19 detected in Wolfville, N.S., wastewater in experimental research

Jeremy Keefe / Global News

The Town of Wolfville says new research has detected coronavirus in the town’s wastewater.

In October, Fredericton-based company LuminUltra filed a patent for technology that it says can help provide quick and early detection of COVID-19 in a community.

The company, alongside researchers at Dalhousie University, say testing sewage is portable and less costly than traditional laboratory testing.

Read more: N.B. company says its rapid-test technology for sewage can help detect COVID-19 early

LuminUltra partnered with Acadia University to conduct research on Wolfville’s municipal wastewater system.

In a release on Friday, the Town of Wolfville stated COVID-19 was detected in its sewage.

“This research is still experimental so can’t be considered definitive. But it could be a signal that COVID-19 is present in our community,” read the release.

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Wolfville Mayor Wendy Donovan told Global News the COVID-19 detection came from one of the tests conducted prior to this week. She says this week’s wastewater test did not show COVID-19.

“The fact that nothing has shown up in our wastewater treatment centre… suggests that this was a small anomaly,” she said.

But that does not mean Wolfville is in the clear yet.

“It just means we have no indication that it is widespread in Wolfville,” Donovan said.

“It certainly does give us pause, to be careful as we know we should be.”

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 9 new coronavirus cases, 1 linked to Bedford South School

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“It was important for the town that this information be released, even though we understand it’s a research project and not something that, at this stage, anybody could take the results to the bank,” she says.

“It is a good early warning system.”

In a provincial update on Friday, chief of health Dr. Robert Strang said Public Health is expanding the COVID-19 intake centre in that area as a result of the findings.

Strang said the research might indicate that COVID-19 has spread to that community.

The province said health officials are hoping to have pop-up rapid testing site in Wolfville later this week.

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While Donovan has no details on the pop-up site yet, she says this will be an opportunity for those who don’t think they have COVID-19 but just want to make sure.

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She says Wolfville has seen many visitors in the last month and has a large student population that travels to the HRM.

“Let’s take this as an early warning and just remember we are as tied to the rest of the world as the City of Halifax is and we have to be careful,” Donovan said.

The mayor says she will be releasing more information to Wolfville residents on health protocols that should be followed.

“We really need to just stick to plan and keep our community and our province safe as we’ve frankly been able to do up until now,” Donovan said.