LSU professors are now tracking COVID-19 through wastewater in Baton Rouge through a science called sewer epidemiology. Professor of civil and environmental engineering Dr. John Pardue says when people contract the virus, they are constantly shedding virus, including into sewage. The testing can measure the viral load from a sample of an area’s pumping station.
“In Baton Rouge, for example, there’s over 500 of these little pumping stations that drain smaller areas of neighborhoods, so we can get pretty precise,” said Pardue.
Pardue says current measurements indicate a drop in the virus, which is in agreement with testing metrics.
“We’ll be able to moniter into the fall and winter when we are concerned about if there is going to be a wave that comes again that we will be ready to be able to provide an early warning that that’s about to come,” said Pardue.
Pardue says sewer epidemiology is not a new science, and can be used to track other metrics in a community.
“What pharmaceuticals people are taking or other indicators in the sewage of other diseases, not only viral diseases, but other things, illegal drugs and what frequency people in different areas are doing that,” said Pardue.
Environmental engineering faculty from universities in Houston, Oregon, and Michigan are doing similar tests.