Updated January 20, 2021
As part of the University’s measures to help our community stay safe and healthy, we are piloting an early detection system to monitor for COVID-19 through regular testing of wastewater samples at U of T residences. Samples are pooled so they identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus, if present, at a community level. An alert of the virus’ presence will trigger a response to deploy a mobile rapid antigen screening team to screen the affected community, with further qPCR testing for individuals that screen as ‘presumptive positive’. Other measures may be taken on a case-by-case basis.
As part of a consortium across the province, the University has joined ranks with other institutions such as Ryerson University, University of Windsor, University of Waterloo and University of Ottawa that are using wastewater to help monitor and respond to the COVID-19 virus in our community.
The benefits of targeted wastewater surveillance programs include:
- Focused monitoring of populations at higher risk for COVID-19 (congregate living) – can detect asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals
- Evidence of an ability to detect low levels of community infection (as low as one case/100,000) up to a week prior to when clinical cases are detected and reported
- Targeted wastewater surveillance can complement, but not replace, case surveillance approaches in accordance with local, provincial, and federal laws and regulations
We are currently operating the pilot at five residences on the St. George campus, three at UTM campus and one at UTSC campus. This initiative is in partnership is with University of Toronto faculty in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and a commercial lab. Our community is invited to provide any feedback or comment at anytime.
- Samplers are installed in each targeted building to collect a composite sample of wastewater for analysis.
- Samples are collected twice a week and sent for testing to a commercial lab.
- Data are analyzed. The principal investigators look for trends/spikes that would indicate a concern in the targeted building.
Snapshot of Ongoing 2021 Wastewater Program Responses*
Please note, there will be no testing during the holiday closure, December 21, 2021 to January 3, 2022. December 2021 results will be updated in January 2022.
|Reporting Period (Multiple Samples Collected)||Location||Number of Buildings||Number of Tests per building||Response Triggered by Samples|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||89 Chestnut (158)||1||7||None|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||Grad House (064)||1||7||None|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||University College (001)||3||4||None|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||UTM||3||4||None|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||UTSC||1||4||None|
|2021-09-01 to 2021-09-30||Woodsworth College (130)||1||4||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||89 Chestnut (158)||1||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||Grad House (064)||1||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||Innis College (133)||1||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||New College (032)||3||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||University College (001)||3||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||UTM||3||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||UTSC||1||7||None|
|2021-10-01 to 2021-10-31||Woodsworth College (130)||1||7||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||89 Chestnut (158)||1||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||Grad House (064)||1||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||Innis College (133)||1||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||New College (032)||3||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||University College (001)||3||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||UTM||3||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||UTSC||1||8||None|
|2021-11-01 to 2021-11-30||Woodsworth College (130)||1||8||None|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||89 Chestnut (158)||1||Yes|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||Grad House (064)||1||Yes|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||Innis College (133)||1||None|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||New College (032)||3||None|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||University College (001)||3||Yes|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||UTM||3||Yes|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||UTSC||1||None|
|2021-12-01 to 2021-12-20||Woodsworth College (130)||1||None|
*Absolute detection values are not provided as dilution plays a factor. The team is working to develop a trigger ratio based on the pilot.
COVID-19 Wastewater Initiative at U of T Residences FAQs
The University will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these initiatives, as well as scientific evidence and best practices and will adapt this as warranted.