Wastewater Testing at Albion

Last updated: Friday, September 4, 2020

Albion College has partnered with Eurofins to perform wastewater testing for the COVID-19 virus in many of our larger residence halls including Seaton, Wesley, and the fraternities. Mitchell Towers will also be tested as of Friday, September 4. We are currently evaluating the expansion of the program to include other residence halls. You can find more information about wastewater testing on the Eurofins website. If positive cases are identified via wastewater testing, we may take a range of action including immediately quarantining students in these residence halls and doing individual testing to more narrowly isolate potential cases.

It is important to note that a single positive reading may not indicate any elevated risk in the community for a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  1. The presence of a visitor who may carry the virus and have used the restroom in a particular residence hall. This is one reason why it is important that people outside of your residence hall stay out of your residence hall other than approved college staff or as in the case of the fraternities, dining services staff.
  2. The presence of a resident who has previously had the COVID-19 infection and who is still testing positive as an individual. Such people could still be creating a positive reading in the waste stream. For this reason, trend data is most effective in showing increase or decrease from a baseline reading. Therefore, a change over time reading is more important than a single point in time positive.

For these reasons we will be testing the residence halls we are able to test 3 times per week to establish a baseline for each area tested. Over time we may be able to add testing to additional residential areas.

What is the value in wastewater testing?

Regular and on-going monitoring of wastewater can provide an early indication of SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in a population, possibly even while occupants are asymptomatic but potentially contagious. In addition, testing can provide trend data indicative of ‘viral load’ over time.

What is the turnaround time of wastewater testing?

Each collection is of waste water from the prior 24 hours. Samples are shipped to the lab via overnight express shipping adding another 24 hours. Test results are then available 48 hours from the time the samples are received. Thus, tests indicate the presence or non presence of the COVID-19 virus in a residential area about 120 hours prior to the test results coming in.

How will results be reported?

Results will be reported in two ways. First we have added a new column to the Together Safely Dashboard to indicate our level of concern about wastewater test results. This will be updated with new data on an ongoing basis. If a change in our level of concern represented in the dashboard is warranted, we will note why that change in concern has occurred with a brief update to the community. If a result indicates we should take immediate action, we will notify the community of such a result and the specific actions we intend to take via email at that time.