North Dakota bill would ban wastewater testing for COVID-19

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota lawmaker wants to ban testing of wastewater for the coronavirus, saying the practice violates the privacy rights of college students.

Republican Rep. Claire Cory, of Grand Forks, introduced a bill that would prohibit wastewater testing “for genetic material or evidence of disease.” She said she brought the proposal over concerns from people about wastewater testing tracing the virus on university campuses.

“They should still have privacy and things like that,” Cory said, acknowledging that the testing doesn’t trace the virus to individuals

North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality is heading the wastewater testing, an emerging science that is potentially an earlier indicator of active COVID-19 cases than testing of people, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Cory's bill isn't the only one that targets wastewater analysis. Republican Rep. Matt Ruby, of Minot, is sponsoring an initiative that would require a public hearing and a vote before local officials decide to participate in state or national testing

Like Cory, Ruby said he was approached by people concerned by testing that traced the virus to a university residence hall.

“I’m not going to get into big conspiracy theories or anything like that. I just think we need to have eyes on it from the citizens’ standpoint,” Ruby said.