Mankato facility helps study the prevalence of COVID-19 in wastewater

Updated: Jun. 2, 2020 at 5:28 AM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The city of Mankato is among other cities throughout the state working on a University of Minnesota Duluth study to help determine the prevalence of COVID-19 in wastewater.

The focus of the study is to gather research from different wastewater facilities around the state and compare them against actual known cases in the area.

“In hope that they come together with data that they can track forecasted trends, changes in basically known cases, and in doing that, they’re hoping that they can correlate that through the population of a city. They’re trying to build an actual quantitative way to test," Mankato’s Water Resource Recovery Facility Superintendent Josh Gad said.

This facility is where samples are tested, not to see how COVID-19 spreads through water, but rather to see how many people could already be infected in a certain area.

According to Gad, this will help health care professionals develop testing strategies.

“So they’re looking at this from a new lense to see if we can find another way to gage how much of the population is potentially infected with COVID-19," said Gad.

Jim Archer is an industrial chemist working at the facility.

“We’re supplying samples, what they call Plant Influence Samples, so that they can test the water coming into the wastewater plant," he said.

Archer said the facility routinely samples the wastewater that comes in.

“So because of that, we thought it would be a good fit," he said.

Right now, the facility is taking samples every other week.

It takes a sample of every thousand gallons of water that comes in from at least seven cities in southern Minnesota.

That includes Mankato, North Mankato, Eagle Lake, Madison Lake and Skyline.

“And it puts it in what’s called a composite sampler, so for that 24 hour period, we’re taking sips of sample and putting it in there," Archer said.

From there, the facility draws the samples they’ll send to Duluth.

The study is anticipated to last three to four months.

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