Yorkshire Water is testing sewage at 10 wastewater treatment plants across the region to help identify potential new outbreaks of COVID-19.
The sampling work will detect and quantify COVID-19 markers within the sewage treated by the water company, as research recently indicated fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in wastewater.
The data collected will be used as part of research conducted by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Sheffield University.
Currently, wastewater treated at Yorkshire Water facilities in Hull, Knostrop, Esholt and Dewsbury is being tested as part of Defra’s project.
Under Sheffield University’s study, samples are being taken at smaller sewage treatment works in the Sheffield area, including Lundwood, Wombwell Aldwarke, Blackburn Meadows, Woodhouse Mill and Old Whittington.
The results will help researchers understand the presence of COVID-19 in the population, including those who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic.
James Harrison, Head of Wastewater Asset Management at Yorkshire Water said: “We have rolled testing processes across 10 of our sites as part of these two projects. We are pleased to be playing a part in the earlier detection of COVID-19 outbreaks in the region and nationally.
“The samples will be tested for markets of COVID-19, which cannot cause infection but do indicate infection within the population. We are still in the early stages of the project but the data has the potential to uncover new outbreaks before medical testing.”