LSU uses wastewater testing program to identify high-risk dorm on campus

Wastewater testing program allows LSU officials to identify high-risk dorm on campus

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Over the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27, some LSU students living in a specific dormitory on campus were notified they would have to take a COVID-19 test because the dorm was identified as a high-risk area.

WAFB’s Donovan Jackson followed up with LSU officials Monday, Sept. 28 to see how exactly they were able to pinpoint the area.

Engineers and health officials at LSU are testing wastewater samples for COVID-19 in order to identify problem areas.

Wastewater test sites are spread throughout campus. Tubes are run through the sewer lines to collect samples in order to identify how much of the virus is in a certain area. That information can then be given to health experts, who will make recommendations about whether or not immediate action needs to be taken, such as testing people in a certain area, in order to stop the spread of the virus.

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“A lot of universities, wastewater testing is being used to look at individual dorms and apartments and housing on campuses to see whether or not we can get an early warning about outbreaks of these cases on campus,” said Dr. John Pardue, LSU professor of civil and environmental engineering. “What we are trying to do is give medical testers on campus some targets to go after."

Dr. Pardue says the testing sites around campus can pull water samples from up to 500 students per day. Once a hot spot area has been identified, students living in that area must take a mandatory COVID-19 test. Dr. Pardue says the wastewater test has already been used across the City of Baton Rouge, and researchers were able to see the big spike in cases this summer.

“We’ve been through the big run up to the Memorial Day, like June and July when the hospitals got full and a lot of people got sick in town, and so we know what that looks like in terms of numbers,” said Dr. Pardue.

Dr. Pardue also says the test is a great option for large businesses looking to beef up their safety measures.

“If you had a business with ten people, maybe you won’t need this, but if you have 1,000 people at a university or at a big school or a big plant, certainly this is one way to get surveillance without being invasive,” said Dr. Pardue.

Dr. Pardue says they can provide experience-based advice to businesses interested or connect them with contractors.

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