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Occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Six Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants at the Early Stage of COVID-19 Pandemic in The United States

Abstract

In this study, we investigated the occurrence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA in primary influent (n = 42), secondary effluent (n = 24) and tertiary treated effluent (n = 34) collected from six wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs A–F) in Virginia (WWTP A), Florida (WWTPs B, C, and D), and Georgia (WWTPs E and F) in the United States during April–July 2020. Of the 100 wastewater samples analyzed, eight (19%) untreated wastewater samples collected from the primary influents contained SARS-CoV-2 RNA as measured by reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assays. SARS-CoV-2 RNA were detected in influent wastewater samples collected from WWTP A (Virginia), WWTPs E and F (Georgia) and WWTP D (Florida). Secondary and tertiary effluent samples were not positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA indicating the treatment processes in these WWTPs potentially removed SARS-CoV-2 RNA during the secondary and tertiary treatment processes. However, further studies are needed to understand the log removal values (LRVs) and transmission risks of SARS-CoV-2 RNA through analyzing wastewater samples from a wider range of WWTPs.

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