The Loxahatchee River District (LRD) is conducting Wastewater Surveillance to monitor trends of infection rates of specific viruses/pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Monkeypox, within our sewer system area. LRD’s sewer system serves approximately 100,000 people in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin Counties.
Wastewater, or sewage, is water from our toilets, shower, and sinks and contains human waste. This wastewater is pumped to and treated at LRD’s Wastewater Treatment Facility. LRD is working with Biobot Analytics and WastewaterSCAN, both leaders in molecular testing of wastewater to assess the prevalence of virus genetic fragments in our untreated wastewater samples collected over a 24hr period at LRD’s Treatment Facility.
Virus fragments are shed from people infected with the virus, including both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Because people shed huge amounts of SARS-CoV-2 early in their infection, even before symptoms, wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments is a proven early indicator of COVID-19 infection rates in a community. Research has shown the relative abundance of SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments in wastewater samples correlates with and precedes clinical cases within the community by 3 to 10 days. Thus, Wastewater Surveillance is a leading indicator of infection rates, and monitoring is now expanding to Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and 9 other pathogens.
LRD’s testing of SARS-CoV-2 started with Biobot in May 2020. Between August 8, 2022 and September 15, 2023, LRD was part of the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) in partnership with Biobot to test twice weekly, typically Monday and Wednesday. The CDC is in the process of awarding a new contract for testing under the NWSS program. In the meantime, Biobot is providing testing once per week to maintain data continuity. LRD typically collects the sample on Monday and results are posted upon receipt, usually Wednesday or Thursday.
As of September 14, 2022, LRD is part of WastewaterSCAN, a partnership of scientists from Stanford University, Emory University, and Verily – the life sciences division of Alphabet (formerly Google). The goal of WastewaterSCAN is to create a national system that informs public health discussions for COVID-19, Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and now 9 other pathogens. Sampling occurs three times per week, typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Below we provide graphical summaries of virus fragment concentrations from both Biobot and WastewaterSCAN for our sewer service area that generally overlaps with zip codes 33458, 33477 and 33469. Also below are links to more information, our proposed sampling schedule, and Biobot’s Laboratory Reports.
- To view the panel of charts full screen, click on the double arrows on the lower right of the charts panel. Press Esc to exit full screen.
- To expand a single chart, hover on the chart, then click on the square with arrow in the upper right of the chart (named Focus mode), or for a mobile device tap on the chart. To return to the panel of charts, click on the Back to Report button on the upper left.
- See additional figures using the page selector at the bottom center of the visualization window.
Program and Results Links:
- Biobot’s National and Regional Results, including variant proportions
- CDC’s Data Tracker
- Verily’s WastewaterSCAN Program
- WastewaterSCAN Results
LRD Program Notes:
- Wastewater results from Biobot updated upon receipt; Monday’s sample results are typically published Wednesday or Thursday.
- Results from the WastewaterSCAN program are automatically updated each morning at approximately 5am.
- Because of variability in the data (e.g. rainfall, visitors, etc.) the CDC and other scientists advise the public look at general trends in the data, rather than the specific concentration of virus. The WastwaterSCAN results are presented with smoothed data – see notes on the data visualization pane above.
Biobot’s Laboratory Reports
- Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Wastewater Surveillance
- Florida Department of Health COVID-19
- Palm Beach County COVID-19
- Biobot’s Science
- The Water Research Foundation COVID-19
- Loxahatchee River District featured in the scientific journal PLOS Global Public Health