Sometimes I sit here in my office and write a headline for an article through tears streaming down my face. And, I don't mean that I was sitting here crying, I was sitting here laughing. Now let me be completely clear with you. Do I think that COVID-19 is anything to laugh about? Absolutely 100% not.

Additionally, if what the Greater Augusta Utilities District is doing helps just one person, then I think it's totally worth it. With all that being said, in times like these where the news is always so bleak and negative, getting the chance to laugh at a silly headline once in awhile provides a quick break from the seriousness of everything we've been forced to talk about.

Now to the meat of the story. The greater Augusta Utility District along with the city of Augusta are taking advantage of a federal grant that allows them to test raw sewage flowing into the wastewater treatment facility for traces of COVID-19.

According to the Kennebec Journal, the samples taken from Augusta's raw sewage will be sent to a lab in Massachusetts called Biobot. Once the samples arrive, they will be tested for COVID-19. The lab will then attempt to determine, based on what they find, what they believe the prevalence of the virus in Maine's capital city is. And don't worry, Augusta isn't the only city taking part in this novel program. Other places are testing their wastewater as well.

COVID-19 is shed, among other ways, through feces, and therein may provide insight on just how prevalent the virus is in our city. Officials also say, depending on what the testing shows, these results could even be used in decision making like when to reopen public schools, etc.

Keith Luke, deputy development director for the city of Augusta said,

“If we see the virus load number is constant, and then there’s a spike, it will be good to know we need to increase our vigilance, which could play into a number of decisions at the local level. As municipal leaders continue to make important decisions regarding reopening businesses, civic and related functions, this testing data on how the virus is behaving in our community will provide an important tool.”

The cost to have each sample analyzed at the lab? $1,200.00 buckeroos. The cost of the program each week in Augusta is a staggering $24,000. But worry not, there are grants in place that will be covering the cost of the sample testing.

The grants come from the federal CARES Act, doled out by the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Keep Maine Healthy program. Augusta got an estimated $155,000 from the program.

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