COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Program

Last Updated: 21 May 2021 12:08pm

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Tasmania’s Wastewater Testing Program began in mid-April 2021 as part of surveillance for COVID-19. Wastewater samples are collected from sites across the State, selected by the Department of Health based on factors including population size, location, and ability to access samples.

The Testing Process

Fragments of the COVID-19 virus can be detected in wastewater for up to three weeks after a person shedding the virus has been in a particular community. People can shed fragments of the virus for a long time after they have stopped being infectious.

The greatest value of wastewater testing is likely to be during a community outbreak, by assisting tracking of the virus and targeted public health responses.

Untreated sewage will be collected weekly or monthly, and samples transported to the Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC) in South Australia for testing until testing capability is available locally. Results will be published on this website weekly.

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Wastewater Testing Sites

Sewage treatment plant

Location

Frequency

Ti Tree Bend

Launceston

Weekly

Pardoe

Devonport

Weekly

Macquarie Point

Hobart

Weekly

Prince of Wales Bay

Hobart

Weekly

Selfs Point

Hobart

Weekly

Ulverstone

Ulverstone

Weekly

Rosny

Hobart

Weekly

Burnie

Burnie

Weekly

Blackmans Bay

Hobart

Weekly

Cameron Bay

Hobart

Weekly

Pelican Point

Smithton

Weekly

Wynyard

Wynyard

Weekly

Newnham

Launceston

Monthly

Hoblers Bridge

Launceston

Monthly

Norwood

Launceston

Monthly

Queenstown

Queenstown

Monthly

Green Point

Hobart

Monthly

Rokeby

Hobart

Monthly

George Town

George Town

Monthly

Cambridge

Hobart Airport

Monthly

St Helens

St Helens

Monthly

Western Junction

Launceston Airport

Monthly

Responding to positive results

A positive result may be due to:

  • A person or people with COVID-19 being in the infectious phase of the illness.
  • A person or people who are no longer infectious but who are continuing to shed the virus.

The person or people whose waste contributed to the positive result may be local or visitors. They may no longer be in the area. People who have had COVID-19 continue to shed the virus in their faeces for several weeks after they have stopped being infectious. A positive result does not necessarily mean there are cases of COVID-19 in the community.

If fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 are detected, the next steps will depend on whether the detection is consistent with recent clinical testing results in that area and the current situation in Tasmania – for example, whether there are known cases of COVID-19 in the community or other reasons to believe the disease might be present.

Steps may include:

  • Public health messaging to encourage testing for COVID-19 and reminders about hygiene practices and other precautions; and
  • Increasing testing capacity in the area affected.

A Response Team will be set up to guide the public health response if a positive wastewater detection occurs. This team will include representatives from Tasmania’s Public Health Directorate, the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, and the Department of Health Environmental Health Unit.

The Response Team will liaise with key stakeholders - such as councils, businesses, schools, medical practitioners - in impacted areas to support the Public Health response.

Advice will be provided to impacted communities and stakeholders through a range of channels, so everyone is aware of what the result means and what they need to do in response.

COVID-19 Wastewater Testing FAQs

View Wastewater testing frequently asked questions