LSU researchers to track coronavirus in Baton Rouge wastewater

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LSU researchers are working on a new way to test for and trace the spread of COVID-19 through wastewater. 

LSU civil and environmental engineering professor John Pardue is working with Gus Kousoulas of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine among other LSU faculty to test wastewater from various areas of the parish for the virus. Pardue hopes health officials can use the technique as an early warning system for new cases and outbreaks in the parish, according to an announcement from LSU. 

Environmental engineering faculty from universities in Houston, Oregon, and Michigan are doing similar testing. While most cities have a gravity system, with all the city’s sewage flowing down to one place, many Louisiana cities—including Baton Rouge—are too geographically flat to do that. Instead of having one centralized wastewater location, Baton Rouge has more than 500 pumping stations, which allows researchers to narrow their research to track smaller areas. 

“We can go to individual neighborhoods and measure to see what’s happening there,” Pardue says. “What’s going on at LSU? Southern University? Riverbend? These are all questions we can ask.”

Pardue’s team is currently collaborating with the City of Baton Rouge Department of Environmental Services to collect samples from just the northern and southern portions of the parish. Still, Pardue hopes the team can identify funding to support more precise testing. He would also like to roll out the technique soon in other Louisiana cities or possibly statewide, though he says an expansion of testing would cost millions. Read the full announcement from LSU.

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