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City of Bend wastewater tested for COVID-19

Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant
City of Bend
Bend wastewater treatment plant

(Update: Adding case estimates)

As part of nationwide study involving 330 cities across U.S.

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend is one of 330 cities across the United States participating in a study with Biobot Analytics, analyzing wastewater for signs of COVID-19.

The city’s Utility Department has been providing one sample of untreated sewage as it goes into the wastewater treatment plan each week, for five weeks.

Biobot Analytics, a biotech startup, launched a COVID-19 sewage testing program, in collaboration with researchers at MIT, Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The city is teaming up with Deschutes County Health Services, which is providing technical leadership in response to COVID-19.

“As an innovative city, we are excited to be part of this research,” City Manager Eric King said in a news release Monday.

“Environmental surveillance is an important public health tool in monitoring transmission and serving as an early warning system,” said Dr. George A. Conway, Deschutes County Health Services director.

The Biobot webpage says new studies show that SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is shed in the stool of infected patients.

If successful, Biobot says the data could:

  • enable communities to measure the scope of an outbreak, including data on asymptomatic people,
  • anticipate emerging outbreaks and likely impact on health systems, and
  • inform public policy and track the effectiveness of interventions.

“We have only taken four samples, and received the results for three, so it’s a little early to draw any conclusions with the limited data set we have thus far,” said Jeff Buystedt, the city's Utility Department's environmental compliance program manager. “Our and Biobot's goal is to get more data.”

“We are helping provide research and data that can help the entire world in the future,” Buystedt added. “Methods will continue to improve and get more accurate as we have more cumulative data. It’s still early in this effort, and we’re all learning together."

According to the initial data, on April 7, when Deschutes County had 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Biodot report estimated 580 cases in the city's sewer/water customer base. Two weeks later, when the county had 64 confirmed cases, it estimated 1,200 cases among the city's sewer/water customers.

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  1. lololol – the experts have already announce it can only live 6′ through the air, only so long on a hard surface, etc but now there is concern that it can live for days in treated sewage????

    1. The experiment is for monitoring of the virus in the community and can provide valuable data. Depending on how accurate the results are, may be able to see if the virus is going down or up. They are hoping monitoring levels in the sewage can serve as a warning sign the virus is increasing.

      1. Skittish, my bet, and I would bet it all, would be proper population sample testing through current test kits would be a significantly better gauge for monitoring levels of coronavirus and aligned with a more refined tolerance for defect as a scientific approach to understanding the rate of infection in a given community/population…but I would also bet that if such a test was completed…the pubs would be open the next day…and possibly Costco would reevaluate it mask policy (which was about two months late)…-JINKEN

    2. ok – you really don’t understand what is being done, or why, or what value it has – ignorance in and of itself is not necessarily a crime – we humans have the ability to learn – but your motivation seems to be something other than growth of knowledge

  2. Considering that they have been saying all along that the virus can’t be transmitted that way, this is a total waste of our already limited funds.

    1. would it kill you to spend a little time and at least try to understand what is being done and why? – your enthusiasm for uninformed criticism is very telling, not about the article information, but about you

  3. I would love to see the data on this…”it estimated 1,200 cases among…” from a county verified 64 cases… I would love to see the statistical data compilation and conclusion…and how that data was drawn. (like did someone even take in account all the septic systems…based on population data- and how was this variable accounted for? (especially considering the demographics of people on septics, and the likelihood that they may or may not be more likely to get coronavirus, which is also still statistically unknown…)

      1. Great link Barney- Thanks-
        If accurate data, their initial study would suggest a much larger infection rate, which with current data published on number of deaths in a given county, this would bring the death rate much lower than originally thought (Bringing down the actual danger of getting COVID-19). And these were similar results that were also just found in the sampling of citizens in NY and CA…

        Thanks Barney- good article on local news and nice to see coverage on something like this.

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