© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Clues To New Coronavirus Wave Could Be Found In The Sewers

Luke Jones

Researchers on Long Island have spent the last six months in the sewers, testing if wastewater contains the coronavirus.

Chris Gobler heads the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology. He collects at least two liters of wastewater during every day of testing in Suffolk County. The samples are in storage freezers at the center.

Gobler said people infected with COVID-19 flush traces of the virus, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

“If and when there is an uptick in viruses we will be able to see that in a way that is better than testing individuals because if you are in a sewered community at least, everyone contributes to that sewage,” Gobler said.

Researchers at Yale University and several state colleges in New York have also used sewage samples to detect outbreaks of the virus. SUNY used sewage to detect an uptick of cases in Oneonta before the campus was shut down.

Gobler said it’s a messy job, but this research could help detect early warning signs that a second wave is coming.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.