The City of Boise has begun sampling the city’s water renewal system to collect important data on community levels of COVID-19 in Boise. The unique approach to augment other data sources will provide valuable information for local and regional governments and health agencies to make informed decisions about how and when to safely reopen the community.
The city anticipates the data collected will increase understanding of the virus’s spread in Boise, even among residents who are infected but aren’t experiencing symptoms. The data may help track the effectiveness of safety precautions at containing COVID-19 and can help provide an early warning for any future outbreaks.
The city is working with Biobot, a company that specializes in wastewater epidemiology. Samples of used water (wastewater) have been collected before entering the city’s two Water Renewal Facilities. Once collected, the samples were sent to Biobot, and the city anticipates having initial results by late May that will be then be shared with city leadership and local and regional agencies. “This is a new and proactive way to provide our experts and decision makers critical data to get a fuller picture of COVID-19 in our community,” said Steve Burgos, Public Works Director at the City of Boise. “We jumped at the opportunity to help our community in any way possible.”
The city plans to sample up to five locations within the collection system. These locations were determined to capture representative geographic areas that are predominantly residential. The data has the potential to show areas within the city that have higher COVID-19 cases than others.
As of May, Biobot is collecting samples from 400 treatment plants in 42 states and 15 countries.