Wastewater Testing

About Madison County's COVID-19 Wastewater Project

Wastewater surveillance allows for large populations to be efficiently and cost-effectively screened for the presence of the COVID-19 virus by detecting viral RNA shed into the public water sewer systems. This surveillance data is promising as an early warning of emerging COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV-2 virus) infections a community.  Wastewater surveillance testing can have a sensitivity of one infection per 10,000 individuals.

Madison County Health Department in  July 2020 partnered with  Quadrant Biosciences Lab and Syracuse University Researchers to implement testing wastewater in several towns, villages, and on some college campuses in the County.  Data from this testing provides early-warning signals, providing our Department with another source of data to guide decisions to keep our community healthy, safe, and moving forward.

Wastewater samples are collected at various locations in Madison County each week.  Samples are tested by Quadrant Biosciences Laboratory to assist with understanding the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community. 

Madison County Public Health is currently sampling at these locations:

  • City of Oneida WWTP, SUNY Morrisville WWTP, Village of Morrisville, Village of Chittenango, Village of Canastota, and the Town of Cazenovia

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison County was one of 5 counties in New York State that began collecting and reporting wastewater data as part of the NYS Wastewater Surveillance Network. More counties in the state are also now collecting and reporting this data. 

For updated results and map please go to https://mbcolli.shinyapps.io/SARS2EWSP/.

Madison County Wastewater Results


COVID-19 Not Detected with confidence of no apparent active transmission

COVID-19 Detected but NOT Quantifiable is an indication of an early/ latent infection

COVID-19 Quantifiable indicating active transmission

Unable to Determine (UID)

No sample available
Sample Date (unless otherwise noted*)Sampling PointCOVID-19 Classification
City of Oneida WWTP 
SUNY Morrisville WWTP 
Village of Chittenango 
Village of Canastota
Town of Cazenovia
Village of Morrisville

What does wastewater have to do with COVID-19?

Research has shown humans “shed” the virus causing COVID-19 in their stool when infected individuals use the bathroom. The used water and wastes from bathrooms (and other sources) in most populated areas in Madison County are ultimately collected in sewer systems. This “wastewater” may be sampled and the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the sample can be measured. Using wastewater data, statistical relationships can be formed to help understand the level at a given time (prevalence) of COVID-19 in the community.

wastewater-houseFlow of water and waste from homes to the wastewater treatment plant. | © Madison County, NY

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What are the potential benefits of this COVID-19 wastewater project?

Wastewater-Varient-Tracking-CDC 1080x1080-1This project provides widespread, anonymous information on the health of the individuals within a sewershed, without having to perform extensive individual testing. The data collected through the wastewater project captures information on local residents that are both COVID-19 symptomatic (i.e. those exhibiting signs of sickness), as well as those that are asymptomatic (i.e. appear to be healthy, but are infected and could spread the disease). Data are available relatively quickly and can provide an overall indicator of COVID-19 spread in a certain area.

The use of wastewater data for COVID-19 is an emerging area of research. There are some academic studies that suggest the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be shed by infected individuals before they exhibit signs of sickness. This means the wastewater data may be a “leading indicator” of an increase in COVID-19 infections in the community – potentially allowing public health professionals to better deploy resources or services in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease before positive cases are reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has initiated the  National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS).  According to the CDC the data generated by NWSS will help public health officials better understand the extend of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infections in our community.  The CDC is also now posting a COVID-19 Tracker based on the levels reported in wastewater surveillance. 

CDC Wastewater

Project Limitations

Decisions cannot be made and definitive conclusions cannot be formed based solely on the wastewater data alone. The COVID-19 wastewater project is yet another data source – to be used in conjunction with other available information and metrics – to assist in understanding COVID-19 impacts in our community.

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Last updated November 30, 2023