The how and why of Hope College’s ongoing COVID-19 wastewater testing program will be explored during a webinar on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.
The presentation, “COVID-19 and Wastewater: Implications at Hope and Beyond,” is being delivered virtually out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic. Participation is free, but advance registration is required via hope.edu/wastewater.
Hope began its daily wastewater testing program in August as a component of the college’s multipronged approach to mitigating the presence of COVID-19 on campus during the school year. Faculty and staff involved in the process will share more about Hope College’s model, including wastewater surveillance, testing, contact tracing and quarantine procedures.
. They will also share lessons learned, for the benefit of those responsible for keeping their own communities safe.
Developed and led by a team of Hope biologists and chemists, the college’s strategy focuses on collecting and analyzing wastewater coming from residence halls, cottages and apartments, which are divided into nine residential zones each containing approximately 250 students. Results are returned within 24 hours, and if elevated levels of the virus are detected in a sample, the college then tests that zone’s individual students. Hope has also been conducting testing in partnership with the Holland Board of Public Works and the City of Holland, analyzing samples collected at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
During the 2020 fall semester, Hope College was awarded approximately $700,000 for equipment and funding from Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) as part of the state’s effort to establish a standardized and coordinated network of monitoring systems to provide an early-warning system for the presence of the virus. The grant provided additional equipment and staffing to enable the college to expand its work, which has grown to include samples from the cities of Allegan and Zeeland and partnerships with the Allegan County and Ottawa County health departments.
The college’s wastewater testing program builds on expertise developed through water-quality research conducted at Hope across the two decades. It is led by three members of the faculty — Dr. Aaron Best, who is the Harrison C. and Mary L. Visscher Professor of Genetics and biology department chair; Dr. Brent Krueger, professor of chemistry; and Dr. Michael Pikaart, associate professor of chemistry — with a staff that includes recent Hope graduates who had participated in the research as students.
The Feb. 16 presentation will be by Best; virologist Dr. Benjamin Kopek, who is an associate professor of biology and played a leadership role in developing Hope’s strategy for mitigating the presence of COVID-19 on campus; and Scott Travis, who is the Hope College COVID-19 testing team lead and also executive director of alumni engagement.
More information about the college’s wastewater testing program is also available at hope.edu/wastewater