Des Moines Wastewater Sampling Helps Track Coronavirus

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority has begun sampling sewage as part of a national program to track the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

The agency announced its participation Monday, the Des Moines Register reported. Agency workers began collecting samples last week and shipping them to a national lab in Maine. The effort is being funded by the federal government and is expected to continue for eight or nine weeks.

Larry Hare, manager of the southeast Des Moines sewage treatment plant, said sewage sampling can inform officials if a dangerous virus or germ is circulating in a community.

“It will tell us whether we’re behind the curve or ahead of the curve,” Hare said.

Des Moines' participation comes as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus is spreading across Iowa and many other states.

Hare said the sampling is the first time the Des Moines agency has participated in a search for a virus, but it has previously provided samples for researchers looking for opioid drug use and other information.