EGLE awards nearly $10 million in COVID-19 wastewater surveillance grants and equipment


A laboratory assistant holds sewage samples collected from Utah State University dormitory’s Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Logan, Utah. About 300 students are quarantined to their rooms this week, but not because anyone got sick or tested positive. Instead, the warning bells came from the sewage. Colleges around the country are monitoring wastewater in hopes of stopping coronavirus outbreaks before they get out of hand. Utah State became at least the second school to quarantine hundreds of students after sewage tests detected the virus. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

MICH. (WJMN) – The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced today that $6,539,138 in grant funding and an additional $3,087,431 in laboratory equipment has been awarded to 20 recipients across the state to support a three-month pilot program to test for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater.

These pilot programs are being run by a network of 29 local health departments, 18 laboratories, and 125 universities, municipalities, and other partners across Michigan.

Launched in October, the three-month pilot program supports local public health department efforts to coordinate with counties, universities, and other institutions across the state on COVID-19 wastewater testing programs. Local health departments are a crucial part of the pilot project as they will provide local interpretation and drive local mitigation efforts based on the reported results. These local efforts have the potential to be an early warning system for the spread of COVID-19 within a specific community or for coronavirus outbreaks on college campuses and at other densely populated facilities.

EGLE made the following grants and equipment donations to the Upper Peninsula:

  • $352,721 to the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department to monitor sites with samples analyzed by Michigan Technological University
  • $151,929 to White Water Associates, Inc. in partnership with the Iron-Dickinson and Delta-Menominee Health Departments
  • $118,000 to Lake Superior State University
  • $92,588 awarded to Northern Michigan University

According to EGLE, testing wastewater for viruses, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, can be an effective tool for monitoring transmission of COVID-19 within a local community or at individual facilities. The virus is shed in human waste, including people who are not ill or have not yet become ill. The virus can then be detected by testing samples taken from sewers and wastewater treatment plants, with results often being available earlier than human clinical samples. These results can then inform local public health actions to prevent further spread within that community.

Funded from Michigan’s allocation of federal money under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the $10 million grant program targeted existing COVID-19 wastewater surveillance programs in the state to quickly establish a standardized and coordinated network of monitoring systems.

During the three-month pilot project, EGLE will coordinate sample collection, lab analysis, data reporting and communication with the local monitoring teams across Michigan. MDHHS will provide project support to participating local health departments, including how to integrate local wastewater data with other types of COVID-19 surveillance and public health responses.

Chippewa County Health Department, Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, Marquette County Health Department, Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties, and Western Upper Peninsula Health Department are the U.P. health departments participating.

EGLE has also launched a webpage providing an overview of the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance pilot project. The page will also include sampling locations and testing data once it becomes available.

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