COVID-19
|Europe

UK: The surveillance of schools wastewater could be an ‘early warning’ system of COVID-19 infection levels

SUEZ has been awarded a contract for COVID-19 School Sewage Surveillance in the United Kingdom as part of an important new project, known as TERM*, that is looking for traces of COVID-19 in the wastewater of schools. Ten primary and secondary schools, located all across the UK, will be involved in the project, ramping up to 70 schools by December 2020.

The new research project will provide new evidence on the safety of schools and additional insights on transmission of coronavirus from children-to-children and children-to-adults. Research indeed concluded that wastewater sampling could provide a signal of a COVID-19 outbreak up to a week earlier than medical testing.

The TERM project has four key objectives:
  • Collate evidence of COVID-19 in schools and how this associates with local cases
  • Determine whether wastewater surveillance can work at school level
  • Evaluate the costs of a large scale surveillance system
  • Explore the feasibility of an early-warning system for communities.

The research is funded by the NHS Test and Trace Surveillance Testing Team. Middlesex University is leading the study in collaboration with Test and Trace’s Joint Biosecurity Centre and researchers from Cranfield University, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Bath, Imperial College London, and University College London.



A leading expertise in environmental sampling and monitoring to successfully deliver the project

SUEZ is collaborating with the project to install, operate and maintain automated sampling equipment at each of the identified schools throughout the school year. The Group was selected for the work due to its ability to safely maintain and install the equipment, providing a complete managed project from installation to sampling and sample delivery. Since analytical data can only be as good as the sample collection, SUEZ’s experience in environmental sampling and monitoring is key to the successful delivery of the project and its objectives.

The Principal Investigator, Dr Mariachiara Di Cesare at Middlesex University, said; “We hope to help schools remain open under safe conditions and to prompt a rapid community level response when at risk. Routine wastewater surveillance has the potentiality to inform the targeted use of community level testing. The potential long-term sustainability of this approach is what makes it unique”.

Rowland Minall of SUEZ’s subsidiary Aqua Enviro said; “Detection of Covid-19 in wastewater is an emerging field that can potentially offer rapid, non-invasive insights into the health of the people surveyed. We are delighted to offer the onsite support of our sampling technicians and ensure the successful delivery of this project on a national scale.”

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, SUEZ has been mobilized throughout the world to ensure the continuity of essential water and waste services for local authorities, industries and citizens. The Group is committed to the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 especially by developing scientific research to monitor the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater networks. This research led to the launch of the “City Watch Covid-19"  offer, which is already operational in 15 municipalities in Spain, and currently deployed in France, the United States, India and Chile.


*School wasTEwater-based epidemiological suRveillance systeM (TERM)