City of Lawrence joins nationwide initiative monitoring wastewater for infectious diseases like COVID-19 and monkeypox

photo by: Philip Heying/Journal-World File

The City of Lawrence Wastewater Treatment Facility at 1400 E. Eighth St. is pictured in this file photo from March 13, 2009.

The City of Lawrence will participate in a nationwide initiative to monitor infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and monkeypox in wastewater, the city announced this week.

The study will measure viral genetic material in wastewater at the Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant as part of the Wastewater Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network — or WastewaterSCAN — that is being led by researchers with Stanford and Emory universities.

The City of Lawrence is working with Verily Life Sciences for the sampling program. Verily will compile the city’s data for both COVID-19 and monkeypox on an online public dashboard.

According to information on the WastewaterSCAN website, participation in the study lasts for at least one year. The program provides testing, sampling supplies and shipping free of charge to treatment plants. Kits to sample wastewater solids will arrive at treatment plants three times a week, and they’ll then be shipped back for lab analysis. Within 48 hours after receiving the samples, the results will be reported through the online dashboard.

This is the second program using wastewater data to monitor for infectious diseases that the City of Lawrence has participated in since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, the city participated in a Kansas Department of Health and Environment-funded program coordinated through the University of Kansas that tested wastewater for the virus that causes COVID-19. Sampling for that program was discontinued at the end of June, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

“We’re fortunate to have an opportunity to continue our efforts to assist Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and our community with access to wastewater surveillance data,” Trevor Flynn, the city’s Municipal Services and Operations Assistant Director, said in a news release. “We have been monitoring wastewater throughout the pandemic and are looking forward to working with Verily on this national project that goes even further. The publicly available data set will be valuable in helping our public health agencies evaluate infectious diseases here locally as compared to national trends.”


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