Macomb County's sewage sampling project, which detects the presence of COVID-19, has led the State of Michigan to allocate $10 million in grants to local governments to do the same. Macomb County Public Works has also requested to expand its pilot project.
“I’m happy that the state is following our lead and will commit significant funding and partner with local governments in this effort to detect the extent of the presence of the coronavirus, using this innovative method. It’s a good expenditure of funds,” county Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller said. “My office has been on the cutting edge of sewage sampling in Michigan. With our experience thus far, we have offered to take on a leadership role and share the knowledge we have gained this summer, with other municipalities that may land some of the state funding for their own local sewage sampling and testing pilot projects.”
The State of Michigan announced the $10 million in grant funding on Wednesday.
The pilot program launched by the Macomb County Public Works Office pulled samples from sewers in seven locations in Clinton Township. Those samples were sent to Michigan State University for lab testing and results are pending.
According to scientific studies, testing of sewage could detect the presence of the coronavirus in individual communities before infected residents develop symptoms, or as they wait for the results of traditional tests.
The Macomb County sewage sampling project was made possible through a $1 million allocation from CARES Act funding that was directed to the county.
The new grant program by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), is funded by the CARES Act as well.
Local governments interested in participating in the project can apply to be considered. A standardized and coordinated network of monitoring systems is expected to be operating by Oct. 1.
“Since nearly 70 percent of Michigan residents rely on public wastewater systems, this COVID-19 surveillance program has the potential to provide critical, life-saving data on COVID-19 transmission within a large portion of Michigan’s population,” EGLE Director Liesl Clark said in a statement released by the agency Wednesday. “The ability to predict outbreaks on college campuses, at nursing homes, prisons, and other congregate care facilities could be game-changer in our mission to slow the spread of this virus.”