Health Board to take over coronavirus wastewater monitoring

Manhole. Source: Pixabay

The Health Board (Terviseamet) is taking over responsibility for monitoring Covid in wastewater from the University of Tartu, which has been conducting weekly surveys up until now, in the new year.

Chief specialist at the Health Board's environmental department Lauri Liepkalns recognized the University of Tartu for building the wastewater - sewage, in other words - study system. Since this is now a routine monitoring process, it is rational to get it done at the Tallinn lab of the Health Board, he added.

"In the grand scheme, nothing is changing, the cooperation with the University of Tartu said. The only change that is planned to be made in decreasing the volume," Liepklans said.

Liepkalns said that the grab samples won't be taken from certain smaller settlements. These kinds of samples don't give as accurate results as samples collected from larger settlements, he added.

"There are more people behind. Because there's an average result of the 24 hours, it shows a more accurate result compared to smaller settlements where only point samples are taken," Liepkalns said.

"Since in the grab sampling, a lot is dependent on the time the sample was taken at, which kind of wastewater flowed through. Our lab will be analyzing and the results should come at the same time as they have always come. When currently, the results are published on the University of Tartu's website, then they will move to the Health Board's website in the future," Liepkalns continued.

Currently, Professor of Technology in Antimicrobials at the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson is doing the monitoring.

Tenson said that the grab sampling is a good option when the danger of the spread of the virus is higher.

"When we're going to overcome the virus to keep an eye on it generally - less and cheaper, it's completely understandable. The coronavirus should be monitored in the wastewater to predict whether there will be outbreaks or not. It's definitely a cheaper method than testing a lot of people as we're doing now," Tenson said.

Lauri Liepkalns added that the EU wants to start collecting monitoring data, to compare it across member states.

"We've received quite strong signals that this monitoring will be added to the wastewater directive. Many other substances can be studied at the same time with this wastewater monitoring, such as the presence of polio-viruses, including antimicrobial resistance. There are many opportunities to add to this study," Liepkalns said.

Once an EU directive is required to monitor wastewater, it will become mandatory for all member states.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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