PBCWUD is collecting intelligence from wastewater to monitor trends of infection rates of specific viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and Influenza A and B, from within PBCWUD's service area. The samples are drawn from raw wastewater collected prior to advanced treatment processes.
PBCWUD's service area covers 1,300 square miles of unincorporated Palm Beach County, and is visible in an interactive map here.
PBWUD's state-of-the-art laboratory data is reviewed by the Florida State Department of Health (FDOH) to assess the prevalence of virus fragments in our untreated wastewater samples collected over a 24-hour period. The samples are drawn from sample points within our service area prior to the influent being treated.
Virus fragments are shed from people infected with the virus, including both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Because people shed large amounts of SARS-CoV-2 early in their infection, even before symptoms may appear, wastewater intelligence of SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments is a proven early indicator of COVID-19 infection rates within a community. Research has shown the relative abundance of SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments in wastewater samples correlates with and precedes clinical cases within the community by 3 to 10 days.
Please note: Detection of viruses in wastewater can identify the presence of virus shedding in the community, but the methods for estimating the numbers of infected individuals on the basis of wastewater RNA concentrations are inadequate. Best practices for wastewater testing recommend monitoring for increases and decreases in relative concentration over time. Virus concentrations are measure in RNA copies/L.