Sponsored by:

Wastewater testing to inform Greenfield on COVID levels

  • The Water Pollution Control Facility off of Deerfield Street in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/20/2022 4:46:27 PM
Modified: 4/20/2022 4:45:10 PM

GREENFIELD — As COVID-19 numbers begin to rise again, local public health officials will have a way of tracking infection levels of not just the coronavirus, but other communicable diseases.

“Monitoring our wastewater gives us another data point to track COVID-19 in Greenfield,” said Health Director Jennifer Hoffman.

Greenfield recently became one of a few western Massachusetts communities to participate in a testing program to track the concentration of COVID-19 in the wastewater system, according to the city. Daily sampling began last week at the Water Pollution Control Facility on Deerfield Street.

People with an active COVID-19 infection excrete the virus in their stool, which ends up at a wastewater treatment facility, Hoffman explained. Samples of this material, which are sent to Cambridge-based Biobot Analytics for analysis, can be used to estimate virus levels in the population served by the Water Pollution Control Facility.

“It’s mostly for information and education, and disseminating risks or information out to the public,” Hoffman said.

The testing will offer the city a more “complete picture” of COVID-19 activity in the community, according to Hoffman, as many people — with fewer PCR testing sites available — are relying on at-home tests that are never reported.

According to the state Department of Public Health, there were 64 positive COVID-19 cases in Greenfield in the two weeks prior to April 14. Cases have been rising over the last month, with 27 cases reported in the two weeks prior to March 24.

Hoffman said Greenfield first learned about the wastewater testing program through a seminar attended by Public Health Nurse Meg Tudryn, who inquired further with the state.

“The state realized there’s no water testing out this way,” Hoffman said. “They got back to us and said we’ll give you what you need to do the testing.”

Although the testing is specifically for COVID-19, Hoffman said samples can also be used to track opioid levels in the community or the presence of food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella or norovirus.

“There was a stomach bug recently going around,” she said. “We would have been able to see that.”

Ultimately, the data will give the Health Department the information it needs to respond accordingly.

“It could help us promote safety for these germs,” Hoffman said.

She added that tracking opioid levels can trigger the department to engage further with social service agencies to find out what patterns they’re seeing in the community.

“Opioid abuse is already something we’re concerned about … and it’s something to put our energy into,” Hoffman said.

Outside of eastern Massachusetts, where the majority of wastewater monitoring is done, communities from Berkshire and Hampshire counties are also involved in the program, according to the Biobot Analytics site.

When results are available, they will be posted by county at biobot.io/data.

“The Health Department would like to participate in this long-term,” Hoffman said. “I think it benefits our community, not just for COVID but other communicable diseases.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy