Toronto is testing the city's sewage water for traces of COVID-19

Oct 15 2020, 1:23 pm

Toronto has started testing sewage for traces of COVID-19.

The city’s media relations department confirmed in an email that Toronto Water is taking part in three independent research initiatives, which are “aimed at assessing the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater.”

The first initiative is being run by the federal government, through Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory. The second is overseen by the provincial government through the University of Guelph and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. The third is being run Ryerson University’s Urban Water Research Centre.

According to Ottawa Public Health, testing COVID-19 levels in wastewater can act as an early indicator to help determine virus activity in a community. It’s something researchers in the country’s capital have been doing for months.

“Studies have shown that a significant proportion of people with active COVID-19 infections shed the coronavirus (called SARS-VCoV-2) in their stool, sometimes even before their symptoms start,” states Ottawa Public Health’s website. “Every time an individual with COVID-19 goes to the bathroom, they flush the virus into the wastewater system.”

As not everyone infected with coronavirus will get a test or even have symptoms, measuring wastewater levels can provide a broad look at a city’s virus levels.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, acknowledged the city’s participation in what she referred to as “research endeavours” during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.

“We are actively participating in those research endeavours and engaging with the researchers on their findings,” said De Villa.

The city’s media relations department says Toronto Public Health has not yet received results from the studies.

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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