Sewer company to conduct more Covid-19 testing

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 5:30pm

Given that testing of the town’s wastewater recently revealed the presence of COVID-19, Sewer Company Supt. Dylan Chase has asked for about $6,000 to do more testing in order to better track the virus. Chase’s request was approved by the members of the Sewer Commission at its virtual meeting on Monday, July 20.

Tests taken on July 4 and 5 revealed what Chase called a “significant” amount of genetic fragments associated with Covid-19, although Chase said he was reluctant to attach what was found in the wastewater to a specific number of cases. At a recent Town Council Meeting, Interim Town Manager Jim Kern said the test results indicated that about 10 people may have been on the island with the virus, but he stressed then that it was an inexact number.

Chase said the Wastewater Treatment plant has “been testing since May 12” and that the facility was working with a Massachusetts company called BioBot Analytics. In the results that came back for the early July tests, “about 7,500 genetic fragments per liter of sewage of Covid-19 were found,” said Chase.

Turning the total amount of flow for the day — about 244,000 gallons of sewage — into liters, the results revealed that there were about 6 million parts of genetic fragments “within our sewage” for that day, said Chase. “Six million parts is significant. It is high. It is a significant concentration. We should not dismiss it.”

But, Chase added, “that being said, I do not believe we can precisely state how many people are infected.” He said that genetic fragments have been found in human feces “a month after testing negative.”

Chase said he would like to test the wastewater weekly, particularly if there is another positive test result. The members of the commission unanimously approved the request to fund more tests.

The tests, said Chase, can “be utilized as a canary in a coal mine to raise public awareness.”