In March 2020, Cary volunteered to join 159 other wastewater systems in 30 states in participating in a one-month pilot of a year-long study to determine whether the evidence of COVID-19 markers can be found in sewer systems, and, if so, how this data might be helpful in responding to the pandemic.

The study is being conducted by BiobotMIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital with the full knowledge of the Centers for Disease Control.

Goals of the Study

The COVID-19 virus is shed from human beings through the person’s stool, which, when flushed down the toilet, is carried through the sewage collection system to a wastewater treatment plant.

The study’s researchers believe that testing wastewater for COVID-19 markers may serve as another indicator of whether the virus is in the region served by the wastewater collection system.

Researchers expect to find COVID-19 evidence in the wastewater stream where hospitals and nursing homes are present, since these are places where health officials have and will test and confirm COVID-19 cases. People with milder symptoms have been asked to stay home to weather the virus, so researchers also expect to find COVID-19 evidence in the wastewater that comes from residential areas as well as in the sewage of homes where people aren’t showing systems but do have the virus.

So far and as predicted, researchers have found COVID-19 evidence in their study’s wastewater testing throughout the United States.

Because the study’s model is very new, it is too early to report specific findings, such as the number of people estimated to have the virus; what can be said with confidence today is that COVID-19 evidence is or is not present in a particular wastewater stream. 

Samples collected from the Cary/Morrisville region show evidence of COVID-19.

The study’s model is new and expected to increase in accuracy as well as specificity each day research continues.

Cary is in contact with the Wake County Health Department regarding the study.

About Cary's Wastewater Treatment Process

The Town has three wastewater (sewage) plants that collect, clean, and make wastewater safe before it is discharged into area waterways.

Cary’s cleaned wastewater exceeds all state and federal permit and water quality standards before being discharged into our waterways.

Cary’s wastewater treatment utilizes a multi-step treatment process that includes final ultraviolet light disinfection that is effective for treating pathogens and viruses.