WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Town of Lakeshore is joining an initiative that tests untreated wastewater for evidence of COVID-19.

Town officials say it can be an early indicator if there are an increase of cases in the community.

Samples are being taken at the Denis St. Pierre Wastewater Treatment Plant operated by the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and analyzed by the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) at the University of Windsor in collaboration with Ontario biotech company S.M. Research Inc., a news release from the town states.

“The public should note that testing takes place at the untreated state of wastewater treatment,” the release states. “Research has shown the COVID-19 virus is inactivated in the wastewater treatment and disinfection process.”

Lakeshore officials say there is evidence that the genetic signal for the virus can be detected in untreated wastewater. The genetic signal does not identify if the virus is intact, just that it is present.

“The science to monitor wastewater for the virus is new but has potential to be a valuable tool to public health and may provide an alert to a second wave of infection in the community,” the release states.

The City of Windsor is also participating in the initiative.

Town officials say the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is supportive of the project and it has “produced promising results for the early detection of potential community infections.”