Wastewater (sewage) testing

Collecting sewage samples could help serve as an early warning system that the virus is present in a community. It can help public health officials provide targeted advice to communities as the pandemic continues.

  • The wastewater testing program in the NWT uses regular surveillance to identify the presence or absence of COVID-19.
  • It is expected these samples will cover approximately half of the territory’s population.
  • This form of surveillance has been found to uncover trends of COVID-19 in the community 4-10 days earlier than clinical data would by detecting the presence of the virus in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic populations.
  • Collecting this information can continue to serve as an early warning system for the territory and help the health and social services system target advice to communities now and after the pandemic ends.

The wastewater testing program in the NWT has gained a lot of attention. We are one of the only jurisdictions that has been able to see the system work when very few cases are active after a time period where no cases were active. This effort is led by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer in partnership with Municipal and Community Affairs, and Environment and Natural Resources with Taiga Lab. As a key partner, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is providing in-kind testing.

An investment of $100,000 from Indigenous Services Canada allowed the territory to purchase the necessary testing equipment and to coordinate the delivery of this program.