Wastewater Surveillance 

Amherst Wastewater Surveillance Program - COVID Virus in Wastewater

The Town of Amherst, partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Biobot Analytics, initiated COVID wastewater sampling on April 23, 2022. Supported by State funding, Amherst’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and Amherst Health Department are collaborating to present surveillance data that reflects trends in the population-wide COVID-19 burden (see below for the CDC description). 

DPW collects one 24-hour composite sample that is representative of all buildings, homes, and businesses that contribute wastewater to the Amherst Wastewater Treatment Plant, including Amherst College, Hampshire College and UMass. The lab measures the number copies of the virus per liter of sewage, the initial count is adjusted for dilution and other factors.

According to the CDC, people infected with COVID can shed the virus in their feces, even if they don’t have symptoms. The virus can be detected in wastewater approximately 10 days before confirmed COVID cases*. This allows wastewater surveillance to serve as an early indicator that COVID-19 is receding or spreading in Amherst. 

Data from wastewater testing, combined with other Public Health key factors, support public health mitigation strategies by providing additional crucial information about the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community.

(*Shah, 2021. Wastewater surveillance to infer COVID-19 transmission: A systematic review).

Reports

To view the current or previous reports for Amherst's Wastewater Surveillance Program, please click here. These reports are intended to provide a local, regional, state, and national perspective on the results from the wastewater surveillance in Amherst. A snapshot of the most recent report can be found below, as well as Hampshire County level wastewater data at the bottom of this page.

Above: Graph of the Amherst, MA sample taken January 20, 2023, to view all full reports and archive please click here

How to Use COVID-19 Wastewater Data

Per the CDC, studying wastewater data can help scientists detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a community even before data from doctor’s offices or hospitals get reported to public health officials. Wastewater data can be an important early warning signal and should be used alongside other data.

Hampshire County Level Wastewater Data