Press Release: MDC Announces Partnership with Yale on COVID-19 Wastewater Study

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Wastewater analysis an early detection system for COVID-19

August 10, 2020
For Immediate Release

(HARTFORD, CT) – The Metropolitan District (MDC) announced today a partnership with Yale University on a study to monitor the presence of COVID-19 in the wastewater of the greater Hartford
Region in order to assist in identifying advance warning of potential outbreaks.

Earlier this year, Yale initiated a wastewater surveillance program in response to the pandemic with other municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Testing for COVID-19 presence in wastewater can help
predict outbreaks up to a week before they are detected by regular testing.

The study will be based on samples of wastewater collected from the MDC’s Hartford Water Pollution Control Facility (HWCPF). Located on Brainard Road, the HWPCF is the largest wastewater treatment
facility in Connecticut and serves the City of Hartford as well as the towns of West Hartford, Newington, Bloomfield and part of Wethersfield.

“The MDC is excited about the opportunity to partner with Yale in order to provide our public health officials with additional data to recognize COVID-19 cases and plan accordingly,” said MDC CEO Scott
Jellison. MDC employees have quietly gone about their business keeping essential water and wastewater services flowing during the pandemic. We hope this partnership with Yale expertise will give officials yet another tool to help fight the virus.”

Yale researchers have been sampling New Haven-area wastewater treatment plants since March, and have consistently found that the increases and decreases in sewage sludge virus concentration predicted the results reported by individual testing with a lead time of around five days. Yale’s Jordan Peccia who has led the project, noted that this kind of an advance warning is critical information to help local and state officials contain outbreaks.

“With schools opening up and the State’s lockdown easing, this is the time to catch an outbreak or spike in cases, if one is going to happen,” said Peccia, the Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering.

Storm Event FAQs

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Will I lose water service during a storm?
Over ninety five percent of MDC’s water supply distribution areas are served by gravity; therefore, it is unlikely that power interruptions will affect your water service. In the few areas serviced by pump
stations, as opposed to being gravity fed, MDC has deployed on-site generators to provide back-up power if necessary during the storm. If you do experience problems with your water service, please call the MDC Command Center immediately at 860-278-7850 and press 1.

Can I flush my toilet during the storm?
Power interruptions will not affect your ability to flush toilets; however, during heavy rains, some MDC sewer systems can become overloaded by storm water. Storm water can also enter the sanitary sewers
through sump pumps and roof leaders connected to the sewer. If the sewer becomes overloaded with this clean water, customers can experience surcharging in their homes. If you experience surcharging during the storm, avoid flushing the toilet or running the water and call our Command Center.

What do I do if I have a sewage back up in my home?
Call the MDC Command Center immediately. While every effort will be made to respond to your backup problem as quickly as possible, and MDC forces will be fully staffed and at a high state of readiness, there may be some response delays, depending upon the severity of the weather event. You should be aware of what to do while help is on the way:
• Avoid using toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines, dishwashers, etc., as wastewater from these
appliances will have no outlet.
• Minimize physical contact with the wastewater backing up in your home.
• Never operate or disconnect an electrical appliance or main fuse box while standing in water. Call your local electric utility if you need your power shut off to “protect” appliances.

What should I do if I have a backwater valve?
If you have one or more backwater valves, make sure the traps are clean and nothing is interfering with the flappers. During a rain event, with the increase in the volume of water in our system, a surcharge into your basement can occur if the backwater valve devices are not working properly. To request information on backwater valves, contact MDC Utility Services at