Issued: 4/2/21

What are the Benefits of Wastewater Based testing?

Wastewater provides evidence of infection as individuals begin to shed SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, into the waste stream. The process of viral shedding can occur well before an individual feels sick or seeks medical attention. In this way, wastewater-based viral monitoring provides a comprehensive view of disease prevalence that includes both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. The scientific evidence supports that testing wastewater is an effective warning system ahead of clinical detection.

How does wastewater testing work? What information is being collected?

SARS-CoV-2 is detectable in wastewater via fecal excretion. The University is collecting wastewater samples for analysis of trace RNA (genetic materials) of this virus. A sampling device installed in the wastewater effluent pipes, in the select pilot buildings, shall continuously collect small volumes of wastewater. Twice a week, the environmental consultant will collect, prepare and transport the wastewater samples to a third-party laboratory (EurofinsQC) for SARS-CoV-2 analysis. No other laboratory analysis will be performed on these wastewater samples. No personally identifiable information will be derived from these wastewater samples. The University will not use them for any purpose other than monitoring SARS-CoV-2.

What is done with the information once collected?

All laboratory analysis data will be sent directly to the designated University Research Principal Investigators.

If the wastewater testing identifies SARs-CoV-2 virus in the sample, what actions will be taken?

No action will be taken during the pilot. The intent of the pilot study is to compare wastewater data to the knowledge gleaned from the University’s Penn Cares efforts by establishing correlations between symptoms as reported through PennOpen Pass, Penn Cares screening testing and Red Pass symptomatic testing. The data will be shared with the University Faculty Senate Committee focused on Planning for Post-Pandemic Penn (P4) for analysis.

Will wastewater testing put building inhabitants or personnel at risk of infection?

Selected sampling points will exist in areas with no or very limited public access. In each building, the sample collection device will be contained in a basement mechanical service room. The sample collection device is fully enclosed and locked, and the retrieval process will not release aerosolized wastewater into the air.

Which buildings have been selected for the pilot?

The Hill and Lauder College House buildings have been selected for the pilot based on their utility configurations.

Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns?

If you have questions about the processes involved in this pilot program, please email Kyle Rosato; if you have questions about data analyses, please email Jennifer Pinto-Martin.

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