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Since 2018 the city of Tempe has partnered with Fulton Schools Professor Rolf Halden and his research team to conduct wastewater-based epidemiology to track public health conditions in the community.

Halden is director of ASU’s Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

Rolf Halden in a lab

Fulton Schools Professor Rolf Halden (pictured) and his research colleagues have earned recognition for their success in the detection in wastewater of SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, at the neighborhood-level, and for sharing of the resulting data with community stakeholders and public health officials, enabling them to take actions that protect public health. Photo courtesy of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering

At first, the testing and analysis was used to track opioid concentrations in city wastewater. Since early in 2020, the effort has focused primarily on gathering data to assess the spread of COVID-19.

“Through this unique academic-municipal collaboration, Tempe became the first city worldwide to collect health data from the city sewers and directly share the data on open access electronic dashboards to guide decisions on strategies by municipal officials to protect residents’ health,” Halden says.

The success of the endeavor has now helped bring about the formation of an expanded wastewater data program funded by the state of Arizona through an agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tempe will receive $1 million from the Arizona Department of Health Services to continue building up its coronavirus wastewater early warning system, which Halden says can locate virus hotspots at the neighborhood level.

The program agreement calls for Tempe to develop protocols, best practices and strategies for water sampling and to broadly share information about the project and its results.

More details are available in a news release from Tempe’s Communication and Media Relations Division.

Read more about the wastewater epidemiology work by Halden’s team:

Sewage sleuths helped an Arizona town beat back Covid-19. For wastewater epidemiology, that’s just the start

Sewers May Hold the Secrets to Making Us Healthier

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