Detecting SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, as an effort to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks, has received attention recently. Authors of a new report in the Journal of Environmental Engineering, “SARS-CoV-2 in Detroit Wastewater,” by Brijen Miyani, Xavier Fonoll, John Norton, M.ASCE, Anna Mehrotra, and Irene Xagoraraki, M.ASCE, share their first detection in regional wastewater in Detroit, and present methods used.

The abstract is included below, but you can read their findings, which include sampling of large volumes of wastewater, concentration, elution, and quantification free in the ASCE Library.


Untreated wastewater samples were collected from the Great Lakes Water Authority Water Resource Recovery Facility in southeast Michigan between April 8 and May 26, 2020. The WRRF is the largest single-site wastewater treatment facility in the United States, and it receives wastewater from its service area via three main interceptors: Detroit River Interceptor, North Interceptor–East Arm, and Oakwood–Northwest–Wayne County Interceptor. A total of 54 untreated wastewater samples were collected (18 per interceptor) at the point of intake into the WRRF. Viruses were isolated from wastewater using electropositive NanoCeram column filters (Argonide, Sanford, Florida). For each sample, an average of 45 L of wastewater was passed through NanoCeram electropositive cartridge filters at a rate of no more than 11.3  L/m. Viruses were eluted and concentrated and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) concentrations were quantified with reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). SARS-CoV-2 was detected in 100% of samples, and measured concentrations were in the range of 104–105 genomic copies/L. Quantification of concentrations of human viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, in wastewater is a critical first step in the development of wastewater-based epidemiology predictive methods. However, accurate prediction involves the incorporation of multiple other measurements, data, and processes, such as the estimation of fate and detention times of viruses in the sewer collection network, estimation of contributing population, incorporation of disease characteristics based on anthropometric data, and others. A viral disease prediction model (Viral PD) that incorporates all these other inputs is currently being developed for COVID-19 in Detroit, Michigan.