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COVID-19 Tests of Raw Sewage Suggest Encouraging Trend

Lake County, CA (May 1, 2020) — As previously reported, Special Districts has been working with an agency called Biobot to test raw sewage for the presence of SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  The virus is shed in the stools of infected people, and its presence in raw sewage would indicate cases in Lake County.

Testing is conducted weekly but results have been delayed, as Biobot has become overwhelmed with additional agencies and municipalities requesting their services.  As many will recall, testing of samples taken April 7, 2020, indicated the presence of SARS Cov2 at all four treatment plants: SE Regional; NW Regional; Kelseyville; and Middletown.

Results were received yesterday (4/30) for the last two weeks’ samples, taken April 14 and April 21.

Results for samples taken on April 14, 2020 showed the following results:

SE Regional (Clearlake and Lower Lake)                                         
DETECTED

NW Regional (Nice, Lucerne, Upper Lake and North Lakeport)    
NON-Detect 

Kelseyville County Waterworks, Dist. 3                                            
NON-Detect

Middletown Treatment Plant                                                              
NON-Detect

Encouragingly, results for tests conducted on April 21 did NOT detect the presence at any of the four treatment plants.

While this is excellent news, it does not necessarily mean there are no cases in these districts.  This data does suggest there are not enough cases to be detected in the samples.

Special Districts wants to remind everyone, when SARS Cov2 (COVID-19) is detected in raw sewage, it is diluted with chlorine, detergents and disinfectants that kill the virus.  Non-toxic levels of chlorine are present in many public water systems, and household and commercial laundry, cleaning, and disinfecting products also end up in sewage.

While raw sewage is toxic at all times, the presence of COVID-19 does not make it any more dangerous than it has always been. 

The detection of COVID-19 in raw sewage has no effect on local water supplies, whatsoever.  Delivery of tap water and management of wastewater are completely separate processes, and the water provided by Lake County Special Districts is safe to drink.

Special Districts intends to continue to conduct weekly testing through the month of May.  Biobot has been working to increase their capacity, and they are hopeful results will be available in a more timely manner in the future.  We will continue to report the results, as they come in.

Despite this encouraging news, significant risks associated with COVID-19 remain in Lake County, and it is essential people continue taking precautions:
• Maintain social distancing, keep good hygiene, and preferably wear masks when out.
• Vulnerable populations (over 65 and/or with chronic medical conditions) should continue to stay safe at home.
• We strongly discourage people from crossing county lines, since this is an important way that the virus spreads.
For Lake County-specific Coronavirus information, or to pre-register for Drive-Thru testing, which will start next week, please visit the Lake County Health Services Department’s website: http://health.co.lake.ca.us/Coronavirus.

The Lake County Coronavirus Response Hub has additional valuable resources:
https://lake-co-ca-coronavirus-response-lakecoca.hub.arcgis.com/
 
If you still have questions, send an email request to [email protected], or call during business hours, 707-263-8174.

Lake County Special Districts can be reached at (707) 263-0119.

Water Faucet
Urgent Health Advisory

Effective immediately, people on private water systems whose tap water comes from their own private intake into the lake, in the Oaks Arm and Lower Arm of Clear Lake should not drink the water.

More info