By Jon King /

A three-month pilot program to test for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater will involve the Livingston County Health Department.

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that more than $6.5 million in grant funding and an additional $3 million in laboratory equipment was awarded to 20 recipients across the state to support the program, that will be run by a network of 29 local health departments, 18 laboratories, and 125 university, municipal and other partners across Michigan.

Launched in October, the three-month pilot program supports local public health department efforts to coordinate with counties, universities, and other institutions across the state on COVID-19 wastewater testing programs. State officials say local health departments are a crucial part of the pilot project as they will provide local interpretation and drive local mitigation efforts based on the reported results.

Locally, the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) will be working with the Hamburg Township Wastewater Treatment Plant on a plan to sample their wastewater and then analyze the results. Matt Bolang, the LCHD’s Director of Environmental Health, tells WHMI that it is more of a feasibility study statewide to see if the data has value.

EGLE says the local efforts have the potential to be an early warning system for the spread of COVID-19 within a specific community or at individual facilities. It’s expected that the virus will be detected by testing samples taken from sewers and wastewater treatment plants, with results often being available earlier than human clinical samples. It is hoped that the results can then inform local public health actions to prevent further spread within that community.