New Research Article by Mitranescu et al., 2022

Treatment of micropollutants in wastewater: Balancing effectiveness, costs and implications

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) emerged as a useful tool to account for the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infections on a population scale. In this study, we analyzed wastewater samples from three large (>300,000 people served) and four small (<25,000 people served) communities throughout southern Germany from August to December 2021, capturing the fourth infection wave in Germany dominated by the Delta variant (B.1.617.2). As dilution can skew the SARS-CoV-2 biomarker concentrations in wastewater, normalization to wastewater parameters can improve the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 biomarker data and clinical prevalence data. In this study, we investigated the suitability and performance of various normalization parameters. Influent flow data showed strong relationships to precipitation data; accordingly, flow-normalization reacted distinctly to precipitation events. Normalization by surrogate viruses CrAssphage and pepper mild mottle virus showed varying performance for different sampling sites. The best normalization performance was achieved with a mixed fecal indicator calculated from both surrogate viruses. Analyzing the temporal and spatial variation of normalization parameters proved to be useful to explain normalization performance. Overall, our findings indicate that the performance of surrogate viruses, flow, and hydro-chemical data is site-specific. We recommend testing the suitability of normalization parameters individually for specific sewage systems.