UBC Civil In The Media – Sewage plant samples show Omicron infections dropping in Lower Mainland

Originally published in: North Shore News

Data tracking concentrations of COVID-19 in wastewater from sewage plants around Lower Mainland confirm that the Omicron surge is declining.

Wastewater samples at four of the sewage plants, including the Lions Gate sewage treatment plant on the North Shore, show virus concentrations peaked on Jan. 5. (One in Langley showed a peak on Jan. 17.)

Since then, COVID-19 concentrations have been gradually decreasing across the Lower Mainland.

While concentrations of the virus markers remain high compared to earlier waves of the pandemic, “it’s certainly on the downward trend,” said Natalie Prystajecky, a microbiologist who heads the wastewater testing program at B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control. “And each week, the load of virus is decreasing.”

That’s good news, because with only a small fraction of suspected COVID-19 cases being tested and reported in official case numbers, “It’s one of the only signals we have that’s what happening in the community,” said Ryan Ziels, an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s department of civil engineering, who has also been among the researchers studying the wastewater trends.

“I do think it’s one of the better indicators right now. We can essentially test one and a half million people in a big pooled sample.”