Spike in Abundance of Covid-19 Virus Detected in Mount Pleasant Waterworks Sewage

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina – Results of a wastewater sampling and monitoring study being conducted by SCDHEC and the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, show a recent spike in the abundance of the Covid-19 virus in the influent, or raw, sewage collected from Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW). The virus had been undetected in prior samples collected since March 2020.

MPW is one of eight wastewater treatment utilities across South Carolina working with SCDHEC and Dr. Sean Norman, environmental health sciences professor at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, as they track the presence of COVID-19 virus particles in wastewater samples collected at each site.

“My laboratory continues to monitor the abundance of SARS-CoV-2 in sewersheds across South Carolina and we have observed a trend of increasing SARS-CoV-2 abundance across most monitored sites since late May,” says Dr. Norman. “While the virus has been undetected in sewage collected from the Mount Pleasant Waterworks for most of the study, we have observed a sharp increase in abundance since early June, suggesting increasing viral abundance in the community. These data concur with increased diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the greater Charleston area."

“These early provisional data are promising that such sewershed monitoring of influent waste can provide an additional tool for public health decisionmakers when dealing with similar viral disease outbreaks,” says Dr. Mike Marcus, Chief of SCDHEC Bureau of Water. He added that it is still early in this long-term study, so the focus remains on continued data collection and analysis of the association between viral abundance in wastewater and positive COVID-19 case counts.

“The Department appreciates the commendable cooperation of the participating utilities and the available leading academic expertise that reside in the Arnold School. We are very pleased that all of us aligned so very quickly to contribute to the ongoing efforts to protect and enhance public health in our State,” Marcus concluded.

“MPW is working hard to continue to protect our community by employing innovative wastewater sampling for the coronavirus,” added MPW operations manager, Allan Clum. “Rest assured, the wastewater treatment process destroys the virus but, it is an indicator that we need to be more cautious in our daily lives and that the virus is spreading, It’s also important to point out we are discussing wastewater, and not drinking water. The two are unrelated.”

“We’re glad to participate in this leading-edge study looking for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater,” stated Clay Duffie, general manager at MPW. “The hope is that we can develop some concentration correlations as a leading indicator to the health of a community.”


About Mount Pleasant Waterworks: Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) is a public water and wastewater service utility located in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Established in 1935, MPW provides clean drinking water and provides wastewater services to a population of approximately 90,000 residents. To learn more about MPW, please visit www.mountpleasantwaterworks.com

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