Wastewater Works Stories:

See how the data is being used across the country.

Informing public health decisions now and in the future.

Wastewater monitoring is proving its value as an essential tool for public health officials and pandemic preparedness. We have advanced the science of wastewater-based epidemiology to provide reliable, timely data on eleven infectious diseases and our tools can be adapted quickly to test for new, emerging diseases. Below you’ll find stories that illustrate that wastewater monitoring works and why America should put a sustainable, national system on the map.

Stories

Las Vegas, Nevada

A big city like Las Vegas, that has a large population of residents and a high volume of visitors, needed a public health tool that could flex to fit its changing population. The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) began using wastewater surveillance early in the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2023, they partnered with WastewaterSCAN to complement and expand their existing program. Our work together has proven to be valuable in communicating more effectively to populations most at risk and validating the relative success of interventions.

How is wastewater data used?

SNHD sees wastewater monitoring as a flexible, easy-to-understand public health tool that works with traditional surveillance methods, like clinical testing data, hospitalizations, and mortality figures. Combining wastewater data with other data sources has helped them prepare for large destination events in Las Vegas.

Our communities are aware of the science. They are very interested in how the data is being used as a public health tool. That’s really helpful at an individual level, as citizens look to the dashboard to make personal decisions, and by public health departments as they make recommendations for the community.

Dr. Cassius Lockett

Deputy Director Health Officer Operations Southern Nevada Health District

We have pivoted exclusively to relying on wastewater epidemiology [for monitoring SARS-CoV-2] to guide us in the future.

Dr. Cassius LockettDeputy Director Health Officer Operations Southern Nevada Health District

Jupiter, Florida

When wastewater data in the Loxahatchee River District revealed a strong correlation between COVID-19 concentrations and clinical cases, Kenneth “Bud” Howard got the word out. Now wastewater monitoring is part of everyday life in Jupiter, and local media publish regular reports on infectious diseases in the area.

How is wastewater data used?

The data has become a go-to resource for community members to access timely, easy-to-understand, and reliable information about infectious diseases to inform decisions they make that impact their health.

You saw it clear as day in the data, a week or 10 days ahead of the clinical results. You saw the spike of illnesses coming.

Bud Howard

Director of Information Services, Loxahatchee River District

As the data just pour out, we showed them, ‘Look at this strong correlation between the high concentrations we saw in the wastewater and the clinical cases.’ We wanted to provide this information to the entire local community.

Bud HowardDirector of Information Services, Loxahatchee River District

Dallas, Texas

For the top public health official in Dallas County, wastewater monitoring is part of a modern, integrated public health system. The science has become a reliable data source for the county, providing critical insights to inform public health guidance. In addition to using wastewater data to monitor for COVID-19, the Dallas area used the data they were getting in the summer of 2023 to mobilize local public health teams and resources in advance of the national mpox outbreak.

How is wastewater data used?

Wastewater monitoring is a critical component in a network of public health data sources that Dallas County relies on, including electronic reports from labs, electronic case reports from hospitals, mortality data from the vital records department, and immunization data from the state.

We are doing a lot of data modernization right now—a whole integrated system. We’re bringing it all in, matching and merging, monitoring. Every Monday we have a command team call where we ask, ‘What are you seeing in the wastewater, in the ERs, on the phone banks, in the syndromic surveillance and so forth?’ Just always trying to stay ahead of things.

Dr. Philip Huang

Director and Health Authority for Dallas County, Health and Human Services Department

Wastewater testing is an important tool behind the recommendations that I make to the commissioners...It's very straightforward.

Dr. Philip HuangDirector and Health Authority for Dallas County, Health and Human Services Department

Snapshot Stories from the Field

Parker, ColoradoPowerful data

“I like being able to use what we have and extrapolate a lot of valuable data from it.” - Evan Scheuer, Laboratory Technician III, Parker, Colo.

Yolo County, CaliforniaA valuable tool

“Wastewater levels have become the center of my communications. I check WastewaterSCAN’s dashboard three or four times a week now to see what’s happening in Yolo County. In fact, it’s actually the farthest-left tab in my browser. It never gets closed. That’s how valuable this is to me.” - Dr. Aimee Sisson, Public Health Officer, Yolo County, Calif.

Riverside, CaliforniaPublic good and public health go hand in hand

As Public Works Deputy Director at the Riverside Regional Water Quality Control Plant, Edward Filadelfia oversees Regulatory Compliance. Him and his team has been participating in WastewaterSCAN for the past two years, and he works alongside Nicole Greenwood, an Environmental and Regulatory Compliance Analyst for the City of Riverside, to review and analyze the wastewater data. Together, they compare levels of disease in Riverside to other cities of similar size across California. Edward and Nicole present these insights in safety meetings with the city’s safety officer. “Every day we are doing our job for the public good … this just goes along with that aspect on the public health side,” Nicole says.

Essex Junction, VermontKeeping the community informed

“Hopefully we don’t go through another major pandemic again, but perhaps if we keep on this path, we’ll have some science to get ahead of it next time,” says Chelsea Mandigo, Water Quality Superintendent at the Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant serves roughly 33,000 people in Essex Junction. Chelsea oversees day-to-day operations, which includes collecting wastewater samples three times a week for testing and analysis by WastewaterSCAN. The data is widely used by the community. For example, during the pandemic, the public library requested wastewater data reports from Chelsea on a regular basis to inform decisions regarding whether library employees should wear a mask on the job. Now, Chelsea presents wastewater data at annual city council meetings, where she shows local officials disease trends in their community. “I like that I am making a difference for the environment, water quality, and human health.”

Mankato, MinnesotaA reliable resource for first responders

A reliable resource for first responders EMS, firefighters, and other first responders regularly ask Jim Archer what wastewater can tell them about levels of COVID, RSV, norovirus, and other diseases circulating in Mankato. Jim, who has worked at the city’s water resource recovery facility for nearly two decades, directs them to the WastewaterSCAN data dashboard. The dashboard provides reliable and timely data that first responders and others in the community can use. “Something like this might be the difference between this and the next pandemic,” Jim explained.

Oakland, CaliforniaPlaying a bigger role in public health

East Bay Municipal Utility District's 13 wastewater control inspectors collect wastewater samples for testing as part of WastewaterSCAN. The Wastewater Environmental Services team quickly recognized the value of the data. “Our core function is protection of public health, that’s why we treat wastewater, so it’s an extension of that, and it’s something our team embraces and appreciates feeling a part of,” said Alicia Chakrabarti, Manager of Wastewater Environmental Services. “It has been interesting to have people actually care about what’s in the wastewater for the first time ever.”

Wastewater Monitoring

Through the collaborative efforts of a network of nearly 200 wastewater treatment plants, public health officials, and community leaders, the value of a national wastewater monitoring system is even more clear.

Early Detection

Wastewater data can serve as an early warning tool, detecting diseases before they appear in clinical testing.

Tracking with Clinical Data

Wastewater data tracks closely with clinical testing data.

Extremely Small Sample Size

With a pea-sized sample of wastewater solids, we can identify a handful of infections per 100,000 people served by a wastewater system.

Data from the Whole Community

Wastewater monitoring generates community-wide data on infectious diseases with no extra effort from the public – anyone who uses the sewer system is included in the data.

45M+ People
Represented

The Heart of a National System

Looking ahead, a national wastewater monitoring system will rely on a larger network of mission-driven people around the country – just like the people that WastewaterSCAN has had the privilege of working with over the past two years. We thank them for their dedication and drive to protect public health. Please get to know your local wastewater treatment professionals and public health officials. They are essential to helping us prepare for future pandemics.