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  • The Herald Journal Friday, Jun. 12, 2020

    Cache County COVID-19 Spike Detected in Sewage Before Human Test Results

    The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Cache County was detected in sewage at the Hyrum and Logan wastewater treatment plants before it showed up in human test results. The Utah Division of Water Quality started collecting coronavirus data from 10 treatment plants around the state representing roughly 40 percent of the Utah population as part of a pilot study launched in March. It just so happened the study was in progress when COVID-19 cases — many linked to the JBS meat processing plant in Hyrum — started rising dramatically in Cache County. ... As a result of the study findings, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday requested DEQ increase the frequency of sampling from the Hyrum and Logan plants and get additional samples from “interceptors” that feed sewage from communities that contract with Logan for wastewater treatment. That way, hot spots for COVID-19 could be more closely pinned down with data. The state will also expand testing from the 10 pilot-study sites to around 30 wastewater facilities statewide. ... The pilot study was conducted by DWQ with help from researchers at Utah State University along with Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. USU biological engineering professor Keith Roper was among the researchers involved and told The Herald Journal on Thursday the process proved to be a scientific awakening of sorts for him. “I frankly was initially a skeptic. These wastewater samples are highly complex and not well defined, and the fact that one could get a quantitative, reproducible, reliable signal from such a complex sample that is subject to so many variables was to me quite dubious initially,” Roper said. “After having participated in the work for two or three months, I’ve come full circle.”

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