MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - There’s been a recent spike of the COVID-19 virus in raw sewage collected from Mount Pleasant Waterworks.
The water utility company said the spike was detected from results of a wastewater sampling and monitoring study being conducted by DHEC and the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.
MPW is one of eight wastewater treatment utilities across the state tracking the presence of COVID-19 particles in wastewater samples.
Dr. Sean Norman, an environmental health sciences professor at Arnold School of Public Health, said while the virus has been undetected in sewage collected from the Mount Pleasant Waterworks for most of the study, they have observed a sharp increase in abundance since early June, which he says suggests shows increasing viral abundance in the community.
Norman said the data concurs with increased diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the greater Charleston area.
According to MPW officials, the virus had been undetected in prior samples collected since March 2020.
“These early provisional data are promising that such sewershed monitoring of influent waste can provide an additional tool for public health decision makers when dealing with similar viral disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Mike Marcus, chief of SCDHEC Bureau of Water.
Marcus said that it is still early in the long-term study, so the focus remains on continued data collection and analysis of the association between viral abundance in wastewater and positive COVID-19 case counts.
“MPW is working hard to continue to protect our community by employing innovative wastewater sampling for the coronavirus,” added MPW operations manager, Allan Clum. “Rest assured, the wastewater treatment process destroys the virus but, it is an indicator that we need to be more cautious in our daily lives and that the virus is spreading, It’s also important to point out we are discussing wastewater, and not drinking water. The two are unrelated.”
“We’re glad to participate in this leading-edge study looking for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater,” stated Clay Duffie, general manager at MPW. “The hope is that we can develop some concentration correlations as a leading indicator to the health of a community.”