01-20-2021

Environmental Surveillance Of Pathogens

Technical Webinar Series

Background/Objectives

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has sensitized the public, government, and scientific community to the threat of pathogens that may spread by air and water. However, the presence, detection, and elimination of pathogens in water and wastewater has been a long-time environmental issue that persists today, encompassing many bacteria and viruses beyond SARS-CoV-2. Wastewater surveillance for community level epidemiology is well established, and its recent application has led to greater awareness of this approach. The potential for exposure to pathogens via drinking water or inhalation of water mists/vapor also persists and warrants additional attention with regard to environmental surveillance.

Approach/Activities

Multiple existing approaches and activities are available to proactively monitor water supplies while conducting epidemiology on water and wastewater streams. These include water sampling for laboratory analysis by reverse transcription and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR/qPCR) methods. The value of these data can be enhanced with statistical analysis, data analytics, and predictive capabilities such as artificial intelligence. More advanced biosensing technologies have been in development during the past decade, including electrochemical biosensors capable of detecting viruses through electrical impedance spectroscopy.

Results/Lessons Learned

This presentation will demonstrate the following:

  • Bacteria and virus pathogens are a risk to drinking water and may be ingested or inhaled.
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology is an established surveillance technique that provides an early indicator of community spread.
  • RT-PCR/qPCR are well established methods for detecting and quantifying pathogens in water.
  • Ideally, detection technologies are rapid, specific, sensitive, automated, and digitally integrated.
  • Digital biosensing technology will revolutionize monitoring and surveillance for contagious and malicious biohazards.
About The Presenter

Jeffrey Hale is a Senior Technical Consultant and Parsons’ Director for Emerging Environmental Issues. He has 26 years of experience in environmental consulting. Jeff is a forward-looking thought leader known for practical innovation and creative solutions to emerging environmental challenges. He was instrumental in Parsons COVID response, developing our wastewater monitoring service offering and leading a technology initiative for the detection of virus pathogens using advanced biosensing technology.

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