The first of its kind in Maryland, the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission, St. Mary’s County Health Department, and the St. Mary’s College of Maryland partnered on an innovative pilot project to comprehensively monitor the presence of COVID-19 in local wastewater. It began with an idea and a conference call back on April 27, 2020, followed by the signing of a formal Memorandum of Understanding on May 11, 2020.  

Metropolitan Commission staff: George Erichsen, Edward Hogan, Woody Norris, and Health Officer, Dr, Brewster (at right)

The idea was for the Metropolitan Commission to provide St. Mary’s County Health Officer, Dr. Meenakshi Brewster, with early detection of the presence and surges in the virus before an outbreak, especially in specific geographical areas.   Dr. Brewster would then have the data needed to help make informed, science-based decisions on intervention and recovery. As expected, by the end of May 2020, early results of this pilot study confirmed the presence of the virus in local wastewater. It was reported in October 2020 that, “Recent testing of the viral load (number of viral particles per liter of wastewater) has demonstrated an increase from prior amounts in several county locations.” By November 2021, this successful pilot project had turned into a National Wastewater Collection Program and is ongoing to this day.

On April 7, 2022, while attending the COVID Partners Forum dinner at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, staff from the Metropolitan Commission accepted the 2022 Innovation Award for their development and implementation of the wastewater surveillance program in St. Mary’s County.

George Erichsen, MetCom’s Executive Director stated that “the Commission was proud to work alongside the Health Department and all the other organizations who rose to the challenge in providing essential public health services to the community during the pandemic.”

To see more about the reporting of COVID-19 in wastewater and for current data, visit the Health Department website at COVID-19 Virus in Wastewater – St. Mary’s County Health Department (smchd.org)


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