Hamilton joins province’s $12M initiative to detect COVID-19 in wastewater

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Ontario announces $12M to detect COVID-19 in wastewater' Coronavirus: Ontario announces $12M to detect COVID-19 in wastewater
WATCH: Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the government would spend $12 million on technology to help detect COVID-19 in wastewater, as part of a larger $37-million investment aimed at protecting the water supply – Nov 5, 2020

Hamilton will be a part of a $12-million initiative to detect COVID-19 in wastewater in an attempt to better identify, monitor and manage potential outbreaks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the province.

The funding from Queen’s Park will be used to create a network to test wastewater samples taken from a number of communities across Ontario.

“Monitoring wastewater for COVID-19 gives us a close to real-time way to track the spread of the virus — even before people begin showing symptoms,” environment minister Jeff Yurek said in a release on Thursday.

Read more: How your sewage could help track coronavirus in your neighbourhood

Hamilton’s director of water Andrew Grice says testing for COVID samples in the city’s water is actually not a new thing. The municipality has been sharing some of its wastewater for almost a year now with the University of Ottawa who’s had a testing program since July of 2020.

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“That’s where we started last summer, and we were sending them to the University of Ottawa where they are analyzing the data which comes back to us to share with our colleagues in public health” Grice told Global News.

Universities like McMaster, Ontario Tech, Ryerson, Guelph, Queen’s, Carleton, Toronto, Windsor, Trent and Western all began similar programs within the last year.

Read more: Ottawa-area scientists now monitoring sewage for coronavirus: ‘Now is the exciting part’

Using clinical and public health data, wastewater monitoring can help local public health units identify potential COVID-19 outbreaks theoretically enabling more timely decisions about how and where to mobilize resources in response to the issue.

Click to play video: 'Toronto testing sewage for coronavirus concentrations' Toronto testing sewage for coronavirus concentrations
Toronto testing sewage for coronavirus concentrations – Oct 15, 2020

Grice says the city is collecting samples at the Woodward Avenue Treatment Plant as well as three locations in Ancaster and has plans to move into a couple of new neighborhoods in the next few weeks.

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“So we have five or six sampling sites right now, and that could be expanded to probably closer to nine or 10 in the next couple of weeks,” said Grice.

Three samples a week are being collected at the Woodward site with two to three collected at the others. It’s expected there will be a change to match the other programs in the weeks to come.

Grice says the city’s using what’s called an “auto sampler” to grab small water samples in 10 to 15 minute increments.

It only takes a single person to travel out to all the collection sites to meter samples and decide on extracting them.

Read more: Public access to Burlington canal piers to continue amidst negotiations

Since the project is still in its infancy, Hamilton public health is not using the data to make any decisions at present. However, Grice says the agency is a part of the working group when data comes back from Ottawa.

“Our colleagues in Hamilton Water, my staff, as well as our public health staff, kind of review them together and we determine what we think the next most appropriate steps are,” said Grice.

“That’s where we kind of made that decision to move into some additional neighborhoods and see if we can get some more useful information.”

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It’s expected further wastewater test initiatives from the province will also expand into First Nation communities, long-term care homes, retirement residences, shelters and correctional facilities.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: WHO analyzing wastewater to determine COVID-19 circulation globally' Coronavirus outbreak: WHO analyzing wastewater to determine COVID-19 circulation globally
Coronavirus outbreak: WHO analyzing wastewater to determine COVID-19 circulation globally – May 8, 2020

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