COVID waste water project


Jessica Micallef

Samples of wastewater from Sunbury and surrounding suburbs are being used in a project to monitor coronavirus.

Western Water is taking weekly water samples from the Sunbury and Melton recycled water plants to be sent to a Melbourne laboratory where they will be stored until testing methodology is developed.

According to Western Water, the project could provide health authorities with evidence of how effective measures to slow the spread of coronavirus have been.

The Sunbury and Melton treatment plants cover a large cross-section of the Western Water service region including Sunbury, Diggers Rest, Melton, Eynesbury and Rockbank.

Western Water’s acting chief operating officer Paul Clark said although worldwide and local research findings had shown that detected traces of COVID-19 found in sewage and recycled water networks are not infectious, the project would provide key data for scientists to better understand the virus.

“The community benefits of this project cannot be underestimated,” he said.

“This research will help track and monitor the virus across our service region and allow scientists to gather information on how it behaves in the wastewater network.

“It’s important that we use all the tools at our disposal to determine how this virus works and what we can do to protect customers and communities we serve.”

Meanwhile, samples of sewerage taken from the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee are also being used to identify potential clusters of coronavirus infections.

Melbourne Water chief scientist Dr Melita Stevens said the surveillance of wastewater for the virus was an “exciting and significant” step.

“This sampling could potentially identify emerging or re-emergent outbreaks, better characterise the extent of asymptomatic infections and community transmission, identify the true peak in infected individuals [compared with confirmed cases] within a sewer catchment and confirm ‘clearance’ of the COVID-19 virus from an area,” Dr Stevens said.

For more information on Western Water’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit