Wastewater in Tempe being tested for viruses and opioids

Crews are now testing for other viruses like the flu and RSV as well.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:58 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Tempe health officials test water from the sewers for different things. They started testing for opioids back in 2017. A few years later, in 2020, they started testing for COVID-19. Now they’re testing for more viruses than ever, and added RSV to their list.

“We knew we had to approach community health with a different lens,” Tempe’s director of strategic management and innovation office Wydale Holmes said. “It’s anonymous, and it doesn’t share personal information. It’s kind of like looking at air quality, so we’re looking at health quality across the community, and we’re able to look at different areas of Tempe.”

Holmes says testing wastewater can help show a more accurate representation of what’s happening in our community. This doesn’t depend on people who test at home to report the results. Crews are now testing for other viruses like the flu and RSV as well.

On Thursday, we saw the process of how they collect wastewater samples. It starts with pipes that go down underground into the sewers. A machine back above ground pumps up the water through pipes. Every 15 minutes, the machine pumps up new samples. The crews will go into the machine, collect samples, and divide them into different tubes to be sent to different labs. “It doesn’t always smell great, but the results we are getting are very promising,” Holmes said.

She says by providing an online dashboard with the results, people in Tempe can know what’s happening in their community and make decisions for themselves. “Every individual in Tempe now has a different situational awareness that they are able to make decisions. We want them to be aware,” Holmes said.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.