Samples of wastewater are collected one or more times each week from wastewater treatment plants and in the network at several metropolitan and regional locations.
Wastewater samples used for testing are taken at the influent (or entry pipe) to wastewater treatment plants or within the sewer network.
Wastewater is treated to kill a wide variety of microorganisms, including viruses, before it is returned to the environment.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread via recycled water nor via treated wastewater released to waterways.
There is no impact on local water supply from wastewater testing. Drinking water supplied by water utilities is safe to drink and for normal household uses.
For more information please visit, www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/wastewater-testing-covid-19#is-my-drinking-water-safe
Why is wastewater being tested?
Wastewater monitoring can give a snapshot of the possible presence of SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19, in a local area.
The Department of Health (DHHS) uses this information alongside testing results and other health data in their response efforts.
Why is GVW taking the samples to test for COVID-19?
Goulburn Valley Water is participating in a national research program, led in Victoria by the Department of Health (DHHS) to trace the presence of coronavirus (COVID-19) viral fragments in wastewater. This will help to provide information on where it may be present in the community.
GVW sends samples taken from the Shepparton and Kilmore Wastewater Management Facilities for testing at laboratories in Melbourne.
How do traces of COVID-19 get into wastewater?
People who have had COVID-19 may shed virus fragments on used tissues, off their hands and skin when washing, and in their stool.
Over time the virus breaks down and small pieces of the virus (called ‘viral fragments’) can enter wastewater through toilets, bowls, sinks and drains, and then travel through the sewer network.
While viral fragments may indicate that people within a community have or have recently had COVID-19, people can still shed the virus for several weeks, well after their infectious period.
What can wastewater testing for COVID-19 fragments tell us?
A positive wastewater test result may provide an early warning, indicating there might be members of the community (including visitors) who have not been diagnosed but could have recently had coronavirus (COVID-19).
What happens when fragments are detected in wastewater?
Virus shedding over a long period can be a feature of COVID-19, so it's not unusual to detect viral fragments in wastewater for severalweeks after known cases are diagnosed.
If fragments are detected in wastewater, the next steps depend on whether the detection is consistent with testing results in that area.
A repeated positive result in a local area suggests that it may be due to a local source such as a resident or worker who may have or recently had COVID-19.
When more than 14 days has passed since the last detection and no new cases have been diagnosed, it is unlikely that there has been a local undiagnosed infectious person or community transmission.
Does the detection of viral fragments in wastewater always mean there is an active case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the area?
Viral fragments in wastewater can be due to an active infectious case but it can also be due to someone who has had COVID-19 continuing to ‘shed’ the virus. While they may not be considered infectious, it can take several weeks for someone to stop shedding the virus. People shedding the virus may or may not have or have had symptoms.
Can people get COVID-19 from wastewater?
No. There’s no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through wastewater, either before or after treatment. The viral fragments that are identified during the laboratory testing process themselves are not infectious.
What precautions are Goulburn Valley Water taking when working with wastewater?
All work with wastewater is always carried out under the strictest safety conditions. All of our workers, including our wastewater workers, are operating under a COVIDSafe Plan that includes full personal protective equipment when handling wastewater.
Is my drinking water safe?
There is no impact on your local water supply from wastewater testing. Drinking water supplied by water utilities is safe to drink and for normal household uses.
Where can I find out more information?
DHHS website - https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/wastewater-testing-covid-19