“Wastewater epidemiology is one key piece of the puzzle for decision makers”Blair Corning, Deputy Director of Environmental Programs, South Platte Renew.
Turning Serendipity into Opportunity
Just a few days into the pandemic, Pieter Van Ry happened to see a story about Biobot Analytics’ COVID-19 work, which focuses on detecting and quantifying indicators of COVID-19 in sewage samples.
Van Ry, the Director of South Platte Renew (SPR) in Colorado, immediately saw the value of wastewater analytics. “It was an effort to determine if there was a way that we could gain more information or have another tool early on in the pandemic to help the community — to be able to use new information to make more informed decisions, guide policy, guide direction, and guide resources,” said Van Ry.
In the communities his wastewater authority serves, including Littleton and Englewood, COVID-19 had hit hard. In the largely residential community, restaurants were closing, while schools and businesses were scrambling to adapt to remote methods.
Van Ry contacted Biobot Analytics and joined its pro-bono campaign about two weeks into the official start of the pandemic.
Partners in Collaboration & Innovation
As one of the initial participants in Biobot Analytics’ COVID-19 work, SPR was able to innovate in tandem with Biobot. As the pandemic progressed, the interaction and communication between SPRWP and Biobot steadily increased.
Now the team uses data and graphs provided by Biobot Analytics to inform their community.
“Wastewater epidemiology is one key piece of the puzzle for decision makers,” said Blair Corning, Deputy Director of Environmental Programs at SPR. Community leaders in the area now anticipate regular updates on wastewater analytics and what the latest information means for their community.
Resource recovery, the process of using wastewater as an input material to create sustainable and valuable products as new outputs, has been a big priority for SPR in recent years. Using wastewater samples to understand the spread of COVID-19 in their community was yet another way to use an existing resource for the benefit of the community.
Utility of the Future
“In our role, we provide the fundamental service of cleaning wastewater. At the same time, we provide data to public health officials who use it to find better ways to respond to health crises,” said Van Ry.
As a result of its partnership with Biobot Analytics, South Platte Renew has forged direct links with local decision makers that did not exist before.
The team at South Platte Renew sees the long-term benefits of wastewater epidemiology and expects this work to extend beyond COVID-19 to proactively address other public health issues as they arise.
“I don’t know that anyone would have thought to include wastewater analysis in any kind of emergency management update before Biobot Analytics and COVID-19 — now there’s a specific tie back to wastewater treatment that informs the emergency response,” Van Ry said.