Portland Water District expands wastewater testing for monkeypox, influenza A, and RSV


Last week, the Portland Water District (PWD) committed to further support public health initiatives through expanded wastewater testing at the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant. In partnership with WastewaterSCAN, which is a collaboration between Verily and academic centers, East End Wastewater Treatment Plant staff will take three samples a week and ship it to Verily Life Sciences where they will test samples for the viruses that cause COVID-19, monkeypox, influenza A, and RSV.  We anticipate testing will begin next week. The PWD will also continue to test for the virus that causes COVID-19 through a separate ongoing program with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).

People infected with these viruses can shed virus into the water that flows from their homes to the public wastewater systems. Communities can track virus activity by looking for the virus in wastewater. Wastewater, or sewage, includes water from toilets, showers, and sinks. It also includes water from some other sources, like rainwater. Wastewater testing can provide an early sign of community trends of infection.

“Results from this project will help Maine CDC better understand the burden of these viruses in our community,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of Maine CDC.  The results will be publicly available on the WastewaterSCAN website. This is a national effort to expand the use of wastewater to monitor and protect public health. There is no cost to PWD to participate in the program.

“We were pleased to be asked to participate in this program and expand our role in supporting public health and the Maine CDC.  The expanded testing recognizes the importance and effectiveness wastewater surveillance has played in monitoring the pandemic,” stated Scott Firmin, Director of Wastewater Services at the PWD.

The PWD has supported the public health sector since July 2020 by conducting wastewater epidemiology sampling at our Westbrook and Portland wastewater plants, first in partnership with Saint Joseph’s College and most recently with other government-funded programs and commercial labs.


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