WINDSOR, ONT. -- Chatham-Kent is joining an initiative to have local untreated wastewater tested to show early traces of COVID-19.

The initiative was formed as part of a collaborative partnership between the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, University of Windsor, Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission and CK Public Health.

“I am excited to get access to this kind of data which will give us a very useful indicator of the baseline infection level in Chatham,” says Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby.

The COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is active in many communities, including Windsor and Lakeshore. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent says the data has been useful in pandemic management with increases in COVID-19 sewage markers serving as an early warning indicator of community transmission.

Wastewater analysis trends are useful in informing public health mitigation efforts, the municipality says, including targeted testing efforts as well as enhanced infection control measures.

“Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission is proud to be an active partner in the wastewater surveillance program, assisting CK Public Health with the collection of untreated wastewater that will be used for analysis,” Tim Sunderland, general manager, Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission, says.

The municipality says the wastewater surveillance program will initially focus only on Chatham with the opportunity to expand in other areas.

“Wastewater surveillance is another tool in our fight against COVID-19 and will not replace public health measures that are already in effect,” the municipality says.

CK Public Health reminds residents to follow public health guidelines including the current stay at home order and physical distancing.