NACWA Public Service Award - COVID Sewershed Surveillance Project
The City of Springfield has been recognized by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) with a National Environmental Achievement Award for Public Service. The award was recently presented at NACWA’s annual conference and I was on hand to accept the award. The Public Service Award recognized the City’s leadership in developing a pilot program to test wastewater for indicators of COVID presence within the community.
The concept of testing human waste streams for information that can inform local health strategies has been under development for some time. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services were interested in expanding the concept to determine if certain bio-markers, shed by people who had contacted COVID, could be used to develop estimates of COVID cases within the community. The concept proved to be successful and the information derived from sewershed surveillance was helpful to health officials in fighting the COVID pandemic.
The wastewater testing results were determined to be a leading indicator, by about 5-7 days, of subsequent case load, since the bio-markers began to be produced and shed before the onset of COVID symptoms in an individual. This provided health professionals and hospitals a planning tool as to what they would soon be experiencing. Additionally, the testing provided an indication of quantity and trend in total COVID cases (including those experienced by individuals that did not get tested and thus were not included in the records of official cases).
As COVID cases were flourishing in 2020, the state reached out to Springfield, along with St. Louis and Kansas City, for help in developing a pilot sewershed surveillance program. Springfield was already experimenting with testing wastewater for this purpose and quickly agreed to join the state’s initiative. The pilot proved so successful that the program, once refined, was expanded to include approximately 100 communities and wastewater districts around the state. Much more information on Missouri’s Sewershed Surveillance Project can be found at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/f7f5492486114da6b5d6fdc07f81aacf .
NACWA is a recognized leader on the full spectrum of clean water issues. The organization represents public wastewater and stormwater agencies of all sizes nationwide. The Member Agency Public Service Award is given to member agencies for their significant local, state, or national voluntary public service related to public utility operation or environmental protection. This year’s Member Agency Public Service Award went to the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District, the City of Springfield, and Kansas City Water for their collective work in helping to successfully pilot a sewershed surveillance project for the state of Missouri.
755 N. Franklin Avenue, Springfield, MO 65802