Covid Wastewater Surveillance Webinar Summary
Dr. Graham Gagnon
Monitoring wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 to understand the occurrence of COVID-19 infections in a population has been gaining momentum across Canada and globally. Dr. Gagnon’s team at the Centre for Water Resources Studies (CWRS) at Dalhousie University has developed and optimized a commercially-available patent-pending method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in municipal wastewater based on a simple and rapid extraction that produces results in under three hours. This extraction method has been successfully applied in a province-wide wastewater monitoring program to analyze almost 2,000 wastewater samples from over 30 locations across Nova Scotia in 2021. The method provided a platform for the development of a simple and effective passive sampling protocol using our 3D-printed COVID-19 Sewer Cage (COSCa) for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in sewer catchments at targeted institutional-level sampling sites. This targeted-based monitoring approach allows us to increase sampling frequency based on amplified risk introduced by acute changes in the contributing population. The COSCa is one of few passive samplers developed for wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 worldwide. To date, over 100 COSCa passive samplers are in use across Canada, as well as in the UK and Australia, and feedback has demonstrated a high resolution of SARS CoV-2 detection when compared to conventional sampling approaches. Currently, Dr. Gagnon’s team is expanding the passive sampling work for monitoring other contaminants in both wastewater and drinking water applications. We have also developed and implemented methods for analyzing SARS-CoV-2 in primary sludge and the solids fraction of raw wastewater to increase analytical sensitivity. These methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in different wastewater matrices allow for greater diversity in wastewater surveillance applications, which is valuable for laboratories with limited resources.
Graham Gagnon, PhD, P.Eng., is the Dean of Architecture and Planning at Dalhousie University, where he also serves as the Director of the Centre for Water Resources Studies and the NSERC – Halifax Water Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality & Treatment. Dr. Gagnon’s research program addresses emerging priorities for the water and wastewater industry, which are addressed through fundamental research and translated into industry practice. His particular research in Indigenous drinking water quality has contributed to the launch of the Atlantic First Nation Water Authority – a unique First Nation owned and operated organization that is focused on ensuring safe water in its supporting communities.