Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of the Ontario-wide coronavirus wastewater surveillance initiative as $120-million. It’s since been corrected to $12-million. Global News regrets the error.
The Town of Midland is joining a $12-million Ontario-wide initiative that tracks the presence of the novel coronavirus in wastewater.
According to the town, studies show a significant proportion of people with COVID-19 shed the virus in their stool — sometimes even before symptoms begin.
Midland’s wastewater treatment facility collects and treats water from across the town, which allows for the centralized measuring of COVID-19 genetic material.
The town will send weekly wastewater samples to the Ontario Technology University in Durham Region to be tested. Results will then be uploaded to a repository where municipalities, health units and provincial and federal governments can review them and plan and co-ordinate an appropriate response.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will use data from the wastewater initiative to determine the impact of COVID-19 in Midland and the necessary response.
In May 2020, Midland’s wastewater management team began working with the COVID-19 Wastewater Consortium of Ontario (CWCO), a McMaster University initiative. The goal was to pool resources in an effort to assess current situations, build capacity and identify cost-effective, science-based solutions for municipal infrastructure.
Midland collected 11 weeks of wastewater samples during the end of the first wave to the beginning of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario in support of the CWCO initiative.
“Our team was excited to go above and beyond in support of both the Ontario Wastewater Surveillance Initiative and the CWCO initiative,” Andy Campbell, Midland’s environment and infrastructure executive director, said in a statement.
“Throughout the past nine months, our team has become technical experts in testing and sampling, and we look forward to supporting both initiatives to help identify more effective ways of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”