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Monitoring COVID-19 Wastewater with Michigan Dashboard

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) currently tests wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus at over 400 Michigan sites. The Sentinel Wastewater Epidemiology Evaluation Project (SWEEP) was created to give a regional and statewide overview of these efforts by providing weekly analysis and interpretation of wastewater data from a subset of these monitoring sites.

With the help of a coordinated network of labs, local health departments and universities, SWEEP provides detailed, weekly analysis and interpretation of wastewater data, providing an early indicator of COVID that can inform public health efforts.

The SWEEP dashboard covers 19 Michigan wastewater treatment plants in 17 counties and the city of Detroit, showing site-specific wastewater monitoring data and trends. The sites, or “sentinels,” are distributed across eight different Michigan Economic Recovery Council regions.

Interpretation of the data provided on the dashboard helps to quickly and easily identify patterns in SARS-CoV-2 levels, track trends and monitor the distribution of the virus in wastewater across the state. Over time, data from these wastewater treatment plants can be compared to other sampling sites and COVID-19 case data within the same region.

– Dr Alexis Travis, MDHHS Senior Deputy Director

On the left side of the SWEEP Data tab, a map of Michigan shows the sentinel sites. The shape of each site is unique because the sewershed boundary outlines the area that each wastewater treatment plant collects wastewater from.

The colour of each sewershed is determined by the percentile, which describes how the concentration of virus in one sample compares to the concentration of virus detected in all other samples collected from that site. Percentile orders the samples from the lowest virus concentration detected to the highest and then describes where the sample of interest lies on that list.

Percentiles are on a scale from 0 to 100. The percentile value describes the percentage of samples that the virus level in the sample of interest is higher than. For example, a 45th percentile means the viral concentration for that sample was higher than 45% of all concentrations recorded at that site.

Other states and departments have used wastewater monitoring to detect outbreaks. The Department of Health and Human Services called it an effective “early warning system” as early as September 2020, when the University of Arizona was able to contain an outbreak after sampling wastewater from several dorms on campus.

Earlier this year, Virginia’s Department of Health expanded its statewide strategic wastewater sampling program to better test for virus particles in sewage. The state has also partnered with Old Dominion University to create prediction models. Currently, MDHHS has set up over 400 wastewater testing sites throughout Michigan, thanks to a June 2021 expansion of a previous pilot project designed to collect and analyse this data.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $45 million for projects that will help seamlessly integrate clean energy sources onto the grid, including advancing the commercialisation of American-made solar innovations, as reported by OpenGov Asia.

Nine solar hardware and manufacturing projects will receive DOE funding to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative technologies that can lower the cost of solar technologies and help to integrate solar electricity into the nation’s energy grid. Among the projects include a new solar heat system to dry out sewage and convert it to fertilizer, which would help decarbonise the agricultural, wastewater, and industrial sectors and a project to develop a low-cost device to help prevent solar system electrical fires.

The projects are part of DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator funding program of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.

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