The CDC wants to monitor feces: States are not on board at all

“If you enjoyed this pandemic, you can expect to have it again,” said Ted Smith, director of the Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil at the University of Louisville Institute for the Environment. “This is what is at stake here.”

Public health officials and wastewater experts told POLITICO that sewerage surveillance operations in some areas address privacy issues and logistical challenges, such as figuring out how to coordinate dozens of treatment facilities that regularly send standardized .

The federal government paid LuminUltra, a private commercial lab, for more $ 6 million for states that could not monitor sewers independently, but the company struggled to build trust with local operators who did not always know what the federal government was trying to achieve.

Mark Macintosh, vice president of applied services at LuminUltra, said the CDC would have received more for its money if it had relied on local labs instead of a large, national company.

“There is a fundamental flaw in this particular strategy [it’s] “It’s just not sustainable,” he said.

Wastewater surveillance gained popularity during the pandemic as state and local health officials demonstrated how they could detect coronavirus in their community sewage systems before the population showed symptoms. These efforts have attracted the attention of federal health officials at the CDC, who in late 2020 released the National Wastewater Monitoring System (NWSS), pronounced “novelty”.

The hope was to create a system that could detect the approach of the Covid case and discover new variants. And as it progresses, it may highlight other public health threats, such as growing resistance to popular antibiotics, increased opioid use, or the emergence of a virus that could lead to the next pandemic.

But 18 months after the start of the effort, only a dozen states – California, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin – regularly send data to the NWSS, respectively. CDC. Even information from some of these states is scarce. California, home to 39 million people, has 23 collectors CDC NWSS board, Most of them are grouped in the Bay Area. More than half of the nearly 60 sample sites in New York do not have the latest data on the board, which means that the CDC does not have at least two data to calculate the percentage change in virus concentration in the last 15 days.

Danger to public health Decision-makers suggest that the national wastewater monitoring system is fully prepared and ready – when in fact, it is still a packaged system that risks collapsing without sustainable funding and participation, Smith said.

“If everyone imagines we are done, it will be a misunderstanding of the situation,” he added.

CDC officials believe the wastewater monitoring system can work even if not all states participate, noting that it is designed to add to other public health oversight efforts – not as a separate bodyguard.

“Having more wastewater sample sites allows for a stronger national surveillance system, but we know that one of the biggest advantages of NWSS is that it provides local health officials with specific, effective information about what is happening to them. In the community so that they can take steps. “Protect public health, if necessary,” said a CDC spokesman.

For states that were not interested in building their own surveillance infrastructure – or where efforts were slow – the CDC worked with a private company that developed samples for local wastewater treatment plants, believing the data collected showed the importance of state officials. Monitoring the feces of their inhabitants.

But these attempts have not yet convinced every state on board. Some states have told the CDC that they simply do not have the time or manpower to make the effort.

“They were busy trying to respond to the Covid pandemic and did not have enough bandwidth to also install a completely new surveillance system,” said Amy Kirby, a senior fellow at the CDC’s Aquatic Prevention Branch. “We know we ask a lot of them.”

The CDC, which seeks to participate more and strengthen existing efforts, has rewarded 37 states with nearly $ 36 million. But of these, two dozen times are not regularly reported to the CDC.

The Idaho Wastewater Monitoring Project first had to build local wastewater treatment facilities – one community directly rejected it. Project workers need to figure out how to send about 30 objects across the state to send samples three times a week to five laboratories at the Idaho Laboratories Bureau. These labs eventually had to standardize their protocols and equipment to ensure consistency.

“I think people are frustrated with the way things are going,” said Eric Coates, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Idaho. “But it just takes some time.”

Other states have scrapped their residents’s fecal monitoring plans. Take North Dakota, for example, where the State Department of Health is in the process of redirecting funding for an existing federal grant for sewerage oversight after lawmakers and the public expressed concern about a federal wastewater data report in the last legislative session. A spokesman for the Department of Health said that not participating in the federal program would “best meet the needs of our citizens and alleviate those concerns.”

The Wyoming Wastewater Monitoring Program ended when federal funding was cut in December. While additional funding is available for the state, a spokesman for the state Department of Health said there had been no “firm decision” on future wastewater monitoring plans.

The contingency plan – attracting these states to build long-term wastewater infrastructure, confirming the value of data – is also struggling. Some treatment plants were reluctant to work with LuminUltra because they had no prior relationship with the company. Wastewater treatment facilities are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and are “quite sensitive to additional activities,” Mackintosh said.

A CDC spokesman said the agency is working with the Aquatic Federation and the EPA, which have links to wastewater facilities and are offering instructions on how to participate.

Several sewer scientists interviewed by POLITICO said they see the importance of a national wastewater system that standardizes and continues their unilateral efforts over the past two years. They say such a tool will help protect public health.

Still, they say it can not be done without extensive buying. David Larsen, an associate professor of public health at Syracuse University who was involved in setting up New York State sewage surveillance systems, said he was concerned there would not be enough momentum to activate a stronger version of the NWSS if the program continued. Act on a voluntary basis. He estimates federal lawmakers should allocate at least $ 100 million annually to monitor sewage at the largest wastewater treatment facilities nationwide to give the program a chance of long-term success.

Without permanent funding, some sewer scientists worry that the ability to create a national sewer system will disappear.

“Let us not lose sight of what we have done,” Coates said. “We have built these opportunities, we have connected people, we have prioritized wastewater as an excellent indicator. Let’s not let it disappear. ”

The CDC wants to monitor feces: States are not on board at all

Source link The CDC wants to monitor feces: States are not on board at all

Back to top button