The majority of sewer systems in the United States and other countries, are operated by public utilities. In the absence of any regulation, public perception of monitoring wastewater for population health biomarkers is an important consideration for a public utility commission when allocating resources for this purpose. In August 2021, we conducted a survey as part of an ongoing COVID-19 community prevalence study in Louisville/Jefferson County, KY. The survey comprised of seven questions about awareness of and privacy concerns and was sent to 32,000 households randomly distributed within the county. A total of 1,220 sampled adults participated in the probability sample, and 981 were used in analysis. A total of 2,444 adults additionally responded in the convenience sample, and 1,751 were used in analysis. The samples were weighted to produce estimates representative of all adults in the county. Public awareness of tracking COVID-19 virus in the sewers was low. Opinions about how data from this activity are shared strongly supported public disclosure of monitoring results. Responses showed more support for measuring the largest areas (>30,000 to 50,000 households) typically representing population levels found in a community or regional wastewater treatment plant. Those who had a history of COVID-19 infection were more likely to support highly localized monitoring. Understanding wastewater surveillance strategies and thresholds of privacy concerns requires in-depth, comprehensive analysis of public opinion for continued success and efficacy of public health monitoring.
Holm, Rochelle H.; Brick, J. Michael; Amraotkar, Alok R.; Hart, Joy L.; Mukherjee, Anish; Zeigler, Jacob; Bushau-Sprinkle, Adrienne M.; Anderson, Lauren B.; Walker, Kandi L.; Talley, Daymond; Keith, Rachel J.; Rai, Shesh N.; Palmer, Kenneth E.; Bhatnagar, Aruni; and Smith, Ted, "Public awareness and support for use of wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 monitoring: A community survey in Louisville, Kentucky" (2021). Faculty Scholarship. 733.