AECOM has partnered with Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) and Columbia University to monitor COVID-19 ribonucleic acid (RNA) in wastewater, which can be a leading indicator of infection rates, in the BCUA sewer shed, AECOM reported on Friday.
“Our wastewater experts are working alongside our partners to establish sampling regiments, analyze test results and present data that can inform public health decisions and help our communities,” said Lara Poloni, AECOM’s president.
The first phase of AECOM’s project began in spring. Since then, the team has collected, tested and analyzed more than 650 samples, with results indicating that wastewater monitoring statistically provides a seven- to ten-day leading indicator of reported COVID-19 cases.
AECOM’s testing may provide early information around trends in infection rates, as well as advantages in tracking hot spots and developing mitigation strategies faster. The data has the potential to provide public health and emergency management officials with a continuous method of community monitoring.
The results could also inform decisions related to social distancing protocols, shelter-in-place orders, targeted testing, reopening strategies and vaccine deployment.
“This critical program may assist government officials, first responders, and communities proactively manage surges in COVID-19 cases up to two weeks ahead of spikes,” said Paul Storella, senior vice president with AECOM’s water business.
AECOM’s partnership has leveraged RT-qPCR testing to determine the COVID-19 RNA concentrations. The team performed statistical analysis to develop time series trends that correlated to actual reported cases.
“We’re honored to partner with Bergen County Utilities Authority and Columbia University to leverage this innovative approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic,” Poloni added.