Effect of Time and Temperature on SARS-CoV-2 in Municipal Wastewater Conveyance Systems

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SARS-CoV-2, wastewater, surveillance, parameters, residence time, decay


Wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 is becoming a widespread public health metric, but little is known about pre-analytical influences on these measurements. We examined SARS-CoV-2 loads from two sewer service areas with different travel times that were within the same metropolitan area. Throughout the one-year study, case rates were nearly identical between the two service areas allowing us to compare differences in empirical concentrations relative to conveyance system characteristics and wastewater treatment plant parameters. We found time did not have a significant effect on degradation of SARS-CoV-2 when using average transit times (22 vs. 7.5 h) (p = 0.08), or under low flow conditions when transit times are greater (p = 0.14). Flow increased rather than decreased SARS-CoV-2 case-adjusted concentrations, but this increase was only significant in one service area. Warmer temperatures (16.8–19.8 °C) compared with colder (8.4–12.3 °C) reduced SARS-CoV-2 case-adjusted loads by ~50% in both plants (p < 0.05). Decreased concentrations in warmer temperatures may be an important factor to consider when comparing seasonal dynamics. Oxygen demand and suspended solids had no significant effect on SARS-CoV-2 case-adjusted loads overall. Understanding wastewater conveyance system influences prior to sample collection will improve comparisons of regional or national data for SARS-CoV-2 community infections.