Timiskaming is monitoring local COVID-19 levels with a wastewater surveillance program, which tests sewage for the presence of COVID-19 in Kirkland Lake and Haileybury.

Why measure COVID-19 in wastewater?

People who have COVID-19 will have COVID-19 gene fragments in their stool, even if they don’t have symptoms yet or if they remain asymptomatic. That’s why testing wastewater can provide information about local COVID-19 levels. Wastewater data, along with other local COVID-19 data like case numbers and testing rates, can inform what steps are taken by the health unit to protect the public. This type of testing is anonymous since it tests the levels of the entire community at once.

How does this work in Timiskaming?

Several days a week, a sample is collected from the wastewater treatment facility and sent to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There, they are tested for COVID-19. Those measurements are shared with Timiskaming Health Unit as the results can provide an early warning of an increase or decrease in local COVID-19 cases.

At the moment wastewater testing is done for the Kirkland Lake and Haileybury communities. Sampling in other Timiskaming communities may be added at a later date.

This project is run through a partnership between the municipalities of Kirkland Lake and Temiskaming Shores, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, the Government of Ontario, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Timiskaming Health Unit. The program is funded through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

For more information please contact Timiskaming Health Unit’s Epidemiologist Celine Butler butlerc@timiskaminghu.com