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Garrek Stemo

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Sewage Monitoring

Saturday, October 08, 2022  ⚓︎

I have seen a few articles in the press this year on sewage monitoring for tracking disease and the health of a city. Sara Reardon writing for Scientific American reports on how wastewater monitoring has been taken up as a tool by the CDC and local communities for tracking COVID and other diseases in the US. The impact of wastewater data aggregation and analysis could be huge — in both the positive and negative. It strikes me that governments are largely reactionary to changes in public health. Little attention is paid to preventative measures. This could change that.

Thinking more broadly, I think this tool has much greater potential than disease tracking. Combining wastewater data with other inputs could be a monumental shift in understanding the health of a community on quite a granular level — both in terms of what substances are circulating in a community and the potential for real-time fidelity. You can imagine wastewater data being combined with data from hospitals, air quality monitoring, or even news of major events affecting the mental health of a city.

A recent article in The Economist gives a broad perspective on wastewater monitoring and how it is being used globally, including the benefits and potential dangers of sewage data collection.