University of Denver, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Recognized for Wastewater Surveillance
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in collaboration with the University of Denver, received the prestigious designation as a National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) Center of Excellence (CoE). CDPHE is one of only two honorees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected for this designation.
The Colorado National Wastewater Surveillance System Center of Excellence is a partnership between CDPHE and DU. The University, recognized as a leader in wastewater surveillance, established wastewater monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 in every dormitory, including the isolation dorms, in September 2020. DU’s innovative monitoring allowed the University to predict community case trends based on signals found in wastewater.
“It is both humbling and inspiring to have the hard work of our team recognized,” says Corinne Lengsfeld, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education, who led DU’s wastewater monitoring efforts. “The partnership between DU and CDPHE allowed for continuous innovation to provide a targeted response. As COVID-19 variants changed, we adapted techniques in real time. This collaboration provides a foundation of innovation to meet future needs by embracing the missions of both organizations to serve the public good through technological advancements, training, and partnership building.”
As a NWSS Center of Excellence, CDPHE and DU will serve as subject matter experts to provide training, consultation, and resources to other public health entities interested in starting their own wastewater monitoring programs. The CDPHE state lab will collaborate with CDC to develop ways to test for other pathogens in wastewater samples. They will also work closely with the other honoree, the Houston NWSS Center of Excellence, to develop trainings and model practice documents, evaluate and improve data analytics, and enhance the utility of wastewater data.
“It is an honor to be recognized for the work our team has invested in wastewater monitoring. Wastewater data, when evaluated in combination with other measures of disease burden, has proven to be a valuable public health surveillance tool during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Allison Wheeler, Waterborne Disease Unit Manager and Co-Director of the NWSS CoE, CDPHE. “This work would not be possible without the contribution of our wastewater utilities and local public health partners, and we thank them for their commitment to improving public health in Colorado. We look forward to the partnership with our University of Denver colleagues and other academic partners in expanding our wastewater knowledge and sharing our experiences with other public health agencies and groups who may benefit from wastewater monitoring.”
Since August of 2020, CDPHE has worked with Colorado wastewater utilities to monitor COVID-19 in wastewater. Wastewater surveillance allows public health officials to identify the presence of a virus in a community before receiving results from clinical testing. This method helps estimate disease trends within a community because it can capture data on people who are asymptomatic or may not get testing. At this time, the state’s wastewater program includes 55 participating utilities.