Ontario announces investment in province-wide COVID-19 wastewater surveillance initiative

We have exciting news to share about the advancement of our wastewater initiative!

We have joined the province of Ontario in undertaking a COVID-19 wastewater surveillance initiative to test wastewater samples in communities across the province to determine whether wastewater surveillance can be used in conjunction with clinical data as a tool to inform a public health response. Our involvement will support Ontario’s COVID-19 Fall Preparedness Plan to quickly identify, manage and prevent outbreaks, the province.

The Government of Ontario is investing $12.2 million over the next two years to partner with and support Ontario universities and municipalities that are conducting important research to advance COVID-19 detection in wastewater and relief efforts across Ontario. As we have mentioned previously, wastewater surveillance could help detect early signals and trends, ensuring public health measures can be timely and targeted.

At McMaster University, the laboratory will be conducting important research to validate the processes and methods used to analyze wastewater in this important initiative. CWCO partners will be collecting and sharing the samples used in this research, and with the province, municipalities will be expanding their capacity to test for SARS-COV-2, and enable them to track other pathogens and viruses in the future.

This initiative will extend to some remote communities and vulnerable populations, such as long-term care facilities, First Nations communities, shelters, retirement residences and correctional institutions to be added to the surveillance network.

We are extremely proud to be part of this important initiative. For more information about the  COVID-19 wastewater surveillance initiative, please read the information sheet provided by the province.

Redeemer Partners with McMaster on COVID-19 Wastewater Testing

Wastewater testing for the virus will provide useful information from Redeemer’s campus, which is currently open to students, staff and faculty, but not the general public.

While McMaster’s research project is tracking COVID-19 via wastewater to support its re-opening plans, collaboration with Redeemer is expected to provide useful information from a campus that is already open to students, faculty and staff, but closed to the general public. The project will provide Redeemer with specific and regular data about the presence of the virus on campus, serving as an early warning system and allowing for the implementation of remedial measures as necessary.

Read the full story on Redeemer University’s website

sewer manhole cover

McMaster to significantly increase wastewater testing designed to track COVID-19

Researchers at McMaster University are ramping up a wastewater testing program designed to quickly detect and track COVID-19 in raw sewage which could serve as an early warning sign for current outbreaks and future pandemics.

While existing clinical tests can identify affected individuals with precision, researchers say wastewater testing is a cost-efficient and quick means to identify the virus and can be narrowed down to identify specific neighborhoods and communities.

“We know COVID-19 can be reliably detected in feces of affected individuals including those with mild to no symptoms, which is an area where clinical tests fall short,” says Gail Krantzberg, a professor at the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, who is working with colleague and wastewater expert Zobia Jawed on the research project.

“A broad wastewater testing system allows us to constantly monitor, test and accurately report on the spread of disease within communities, which would include nursing homes, schools and universities, to address the crucial need not only for the current pandemic but for future outbreaks,” she says.

With support from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), researchers plan to test samples three times a week and report results within 24 hours to public health agencies in a number of municipalities which include the City of Hamilton, Niagara Region, Haldimand County, Norfolk County and Oxford County. Several universities across Ontario are working with the province on the program.

Read More on the Brighter World news page

Webinar hosted by OMWA – Friday, November 6, 11:00 AM

The Ontario Municipal Water Association (OMWA) is hosting a free webinar for anyone working in municipal water management to discuss how wastewater can be used in early detection for outbreaks of COVID-19.

OMWA Vice President, Kathy Vassilakos and research leads Dr. Gail Krantzberg and Dr. Zobia Jawed of McMaster University will help answer questions related to how communities can help manage the pandemic through early detection and monitoring of COVID-19 in wastewater, explore the challenges and opportunities of wastewater tracking across the province and learn how you can join the COVID-19 Consortium of Ontario (www.cwco.ca).


Hosted using Zoom,
Friday, November 6, 2020,
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM (Eastern Time)

Register now to join the webinar


No matter how many COVID-19 tests are done, current methods suffer from serious limitations. Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic individuals prevent governments from getting accurate rates of COVID-19 infection, delaying public health responses. Cutting edge global and domestic research confirms that COVID-19 can be reliably detected in the feces of affected individuals including those with mild to no symptoms – an area where clinical tests fall short.

A broad wastewater testing system may be able to continually test and accurately report on the spread of disease within communities to address a crucial need not only for the current pandemic, but for future outbreaks.

McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering is co-creating sampling and analytical protocols and providing a roadmap for best practices that could be adopted, with our partners, across the province. This will equip local facilities to detect COVID-19 earlier and more effectively.

We kindly ask new and existing partners to complete the following wastewater research survey from COVID-19 Consortium of Ontario (CWCO) as linked below;

Please complete the survey to help CWCO in their research and capacity building.

Dr. Gail Krantzberg & Dr. Zobia Jawed express their gratitude for completing the survey and being part of this initiative.

Sampling has begun with CWCO partners

In September, 2020, the COVID-19 Wastewater Consortium of Ontario (CWCO) started an 8-week wastewater sampling program across Ontario with the support of its partners. In the past  two months, the province has seen a spike in the number of clinical COVID-19 cases, bringing the challenge of a second wave of COVID-19. The collection of wastewater samples from
sewershed networks at this time is crucial, as these samples act as reference points in our study. The analysis of this wastewater allows us to pinpoint specific hotspots within a region. This tracking strategy gives public health officials the data which they need to make informed decisions. For instance, if a particular region’s wastewater suggests a spike in COVID-19 cases, public health officials can better allocate resources to the needs of their communities.

Download the PDF Newsletter to read more.


Please take a moment to complete our wastewater research survey

We kindly ask new and existing partners to complete the following wastewater research survey from COVID-19 Consortium of Ontario (CWCO) as linked below:

Developing a detailed gap analysis is an essential part of this project as the findings and conclusions will help us identify current gaps existing in Ontario’s municipal/ non-municipal wastewater treatment plants capacity to track for SARS-CoV-2. Distributing the general survey to our CWCO’s partners and all the municipalities in Ontario is the first step in our bottom-up approach in collecting data across the province.

For our first phase of data collection, the survey provided will consist of general questions regarding the wastewater treatment plant of the municipality you are representing. The survey is divided into six sections: general information, municipal population, wastewater treatment plant resources, and sampling/testing resources.  It should take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

With this survey, we hope to gather as much information as we can to build a strong database that helps us move forward in our research. After the first phase of data collection, we will proceed into phase two consisting of a second detailed survey and possibly an individual interview to thoroughly identify local realities, risks and opportunities. We appreciate your collaboration and look forward to supporting our partners in building local capacity to track and fight against the community spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Thank you again for your time.

Dr. Zobia Jawed (Ph.D., M.Eng.)
Faculty of Engineering, McMaster University

[Hamilton Spectator] Flushing out COVID: McMaster University will test sewage in a bid to uncover campus outbreaks

McMaster University will try to flush out future COVID-19 outbreaks by testing campus sewage — and it hopes to help other cities do the same.

The university will start testing sewage at 13 different spots across the west Hamilton campus as part of an “early warning” COVID-tracking strategy designed by its own wastewater experts, Gail Krantzberg and Zobia Jawed.