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New Wastewater Surveillance Programs Are Saving Lives

Back in July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they were “getting their hands dirty” by tracking COVID-19 data from an unexpected source: wastewater.

The goal of the newly formed National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) is to work with states and local entities to collect COVID-19 data from wastewater testing and provide: 

  • An efficient pooled community sample.
  • Data for communities where timely COVID-19 clinical testing is underutilized or unavailable.
  • Data at the sub-county level.

Why Test Wastewater?

Lawrence Goodridge, a microbiologist who teaches at the University of Guelph, says “wastewater surveillance works because many infectious agents are excreted in bodily fluids, before and during active infection.”

It also allows local health officials to gather data without relying on people knowing that they’re sick and seeking medical help. To address a virus like COVID-19, which is often asymptomatic, Goodridge says “we need active surveillance systems that don’t rely on the actions of sick people.”

Wastewater surveillance first emerged back in the ‘60s when researchers at Yale University conducted several experiments to assess the effectiveness of polio vaccination. They tested sewage in Middletown, CT for various strains of the polio virus before, during, and after the vaccination program.

Wastewater Warnings

Monitoring wastewater also helps identify potential viral outbreaks before anyone visits a medical facility with symptoms. In 2013, researchers in Sweden reported that wastewater surveillance provided warnings of outbreaks of norovirus and hepatitis A virus, two causes of foodborne viral disease, two to three weeks before identifying any sick people.

Observed and theoretical time lags between infection and detection of increasing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in wastewater and the health system. Source:

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), COVID-19 “can be detected in wastewater up to seven days before infections lead to increases in clinical cases.” This early detection can “alert public health agencies of a potential surge in cases in a specific community and allow additional precautions to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Local-Level Data Collection

With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise in the US, multiple states are starting to adapt wastewater surveillance measures.

In November, Michigan announced the creation of a COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance Pilot Project, headed by both the MDHHS and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The pilot project is working with 29 local health departments, 19 laboratories, and at least 135 partner agencies/organizations to establish a “standardized network of wastewater monitoring systems across Michigan that will test wastewater for the presence of this virus.” You can click here to view an interactive map of current locations undergoing wastewater surveillance in Michigan.

Michigan’s Testing Process

According to the EGLE, Wastewater entering sewage pipes or wastewater treatment plants is sampled for COVID-19’s viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) pieces. The wastewater comes from homes or buildings in the corresponding service areas and represents sewage from the total number of people in that area, not individual people.

Samples are then analyzed by a laboratory to determine the number of virus gene copies present, which are then compared to the wastewater flow that occurred on the sample day and the population that contributed to the flow.

Depending on the turnaround time of the laboratory, results can be available up to seven days prior to routine notification of clinical test results to public health agencies. As an example, Michigan State University recently conducted local monitoring of wastewater, which identified a spike in COVID-19 one week before clinical and public health identification of a COVID-19 outbreak in East Lansing related to a local restaurant.

As plumbers, your work is truly vital. By ensuring everyone has properly functioning and efficient waste drainage systems, you’re contributing to effective wastewater surveillance and saving lives in your community! What are your thoughts on wastewater surveillance? Let us know on social media!

Kentucky COVID-19 License Renewal Updates & FAQs

Kentucky plumbing professionals, your license renewal deadlines have been extended due to COVID-19. With Kentucky still in a state of emergency as of this writing, the governor’s executive order may apply to you.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • If your license expires during the state of emergency, you do not need to submit proof of completion until 60 days after the state of emergency ends.
  • You do not have to complete any parts of the renewal process that are only possible in a physical classroom during  the state of emergency or 60 days after it’s lifted.
  • Once the state of emergency is lifted, you must complete the renewal process within 120 days.

NOTE: There is no penalty for finishing your renewal process during the state of emergency or before the mentioned deadlines. If you would like to complete your license renewal process from the comfort of home and on your own schedule, click here.

This emergency order changes the deadlines for license renewal, but the general guidelines have not changed. Here are some answers to FAQs about renewing your license:

Do I have to complete continuing education to renew my Kentucky plumbing license?

Yes, you must complete 6-hours of continuing education.

When is my Kentucky plumber continuing education due?

Kentucky plumbers must renew their licenses every year by the last day of their birth month.
See temporary COVID-19 update above.

How do I renew my Kentucky plumbing license?

  1. Complete 6-hours of continuing education
  2. Complete the renewal notice that you will receive 30 days before expiration
  3. Provide proof of continuing education completion (we provide a printable certificate immediately upon course completion)

What is the renewal fee for my Kentucky plumbing license?

Journeymen - $60

Master - $250

Who submits my Kentucky plumbing license plumbing course completion?

We will submit the course completion to the state; but the licensee still needs to show proof of continuing education completion. (We provide a printable certificate immediately upon course completion).

Who do I contact at the state level with questions about my Kentucky plumbing license?

Department Housing Building & Construction
Licensing Branch

101 Sea Hero Rd. Suite 100
Frankfort, KY 40601

502-573-2002 (Telephone)
502-573-1598 (Fax)

How COVID-19 Is Changing Our Bathrooms

This pandemic has changed the public’s relationship with bathrooms. With a hyper-focus on things like sanitized surfaces and clean hands, here are some ways bathrooms are evolving to meet current (and future) needs.

Touchless Fixtures

Touchless fixtures have been a fixture of many bathrooms for years now, but now they’re more important than ever. According to a recent Bradley Corp. survey, 91% of Americans believe public restrooms need touchless fixtures. Voice command technology is becoming more widespread, as well as automatic door openers for the sake of limiting contact instead of purely for accessibility.

Antimicrobial Surfaces

Because not everything in a bathroom can be touchless (like grab bars), there is a rising demand for using antimicrobial finishes on high-touch surfaces. When possible, copper, an inherently antimicrobial material, is also being considered as replacements for existing door handles. One company in Traverse City, MI has been offering copper coverings for the past few months.

Sink Materials

Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development at Wisconsin’s architectural firm Kahler Slater, said “For sinks, using smooth and nonporous materials with seamless construction like solid surface and natural quartz helps prevent bacteria, mold and delamination accumulation.” He also mentioned new wash basin designs with more space between hand washing areas to allow for social distancing.


With more people washing their hands, at home and at work, the importance of water and energy efficiency is growing. Kris Alderson, senior marketing manager with Bradley Corp., said there is now a focus on using more sustainable bathroom solutions such as efficient faucets, hand dryers, and recycled building materials.

With the growing demand for cleaner and more efficient plumbing solutions, be sure you’re managing business expenses appropriately. With our Pricing Plumbing for Profit professional development course, you’ll learn the best ways for charging enough to still make a profit. Choose your state below to get started.

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