Wastewater study shows little virus in Albany

Wastewater study shows little virus in Albany

  • Updated

The latest results from a wastewater study in the city of Albany show undetectable traces of COVID-19 in the city's sewage. 

The study, which detects SARS-CoV2 virus in pre-treated wastewater, has been conducted since the beginning of April. Albany has sent five samples, collected at the Albany-Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility, to Biobot Laboratories in Somerville, Massachusetts, for analysis. The latest of which, on April 21, showed no detectable virus above about 1 in 7,500 people. 

“The city is not necessarily focused on the week-to-week changes in the results, but what a longer-term trend of results and case estimates may mean to helping Albany plan for our COVID-19 response,” said David Gilbey, Environmental Services Manager.  “We have to keep in mind that this is a developing model.” 

Albany is one of dozens of cities around the country that are taking part in a study headed by BioBot Analytics that gauges the amount of the virus found in a city's sewage.

"They're using a model that's basically an algorithm model," said David Gilbey, environmental services manager for Albany Public Works. "They're looking at how much virus is shed on average in stool per person."
The idea is to gauge an approximation of the number of cases in a city, including asymptomatic cases that can still infect other people. 
"It doesn't tell you how many are infected," Gilbey said. "There's some variability in the model. It doesn't necessarily mean one virus equals one person. It's based on how much virus is shed on average in a stool sample. These aren't hard and fast numbers."

The samples for the study are being taken from the Albany-Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility that serves approximately 57,000 people. Participating in the study costs the city $120 a week.

The first week in April showed about 1,500 cases based on the company's model. Officially, the Oregon Health Authority has reported 109 cases in all of Linn County to date. 

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