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COVID-19 Wastewater Testing in 10 Top End Locations

NT Health

NT Health has commenced a COVID-19 wastewater testing system across 10 Top End locations, as a further surveillance system to complement existing pathology-based COVID-19 testing for individuals.

Wastewater testing will initially be conducted for three months, across the Darwin and Palmerston region, and including the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility, after which the system will be reviewed.

Wastewater sampling acts as an early warning detection system in the Northern Territory’s defence against COVID-19. Wastewater test results so far have been as expected, with detection of COVID-19 only found in the sample taken from the Stow Road pump station which serves as a catchment to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility. There has been no other detections of COVID-19 in wastewater sampling from the other sites.

Should detection of COVID-19 fragments in the sewerage network occur, they will inform public health authorities about the geographical locations that require an increase in clinical testing and any subsequent request to the community to get tested for COVID-19 will be made.

Wastewater samples are being collected from suburban areas and sites that target high volume tourism and event locations areas such as Mindil Beach and the CBD.  

Population numbers in each catchment are below 50,000 which is in line with the requirements to capture the accurate detection of COVID-19 cases.

The 10 sampling catchments sites are:

  • Ludmilla Sewage Treatment Plant inlet
  • Stuart Highway
  • Darwin CBD
  • Mindil Beach
  • Leanyer/Sanderson Sewage Treatment Plant #1 – inlet from Western Area
  • Leanyer/Sanderson Sewage Treatment Plant #2 – inlet from Northern Suburbs
  • Rocklands Drive Tiwi, isolated to RDH campus
  • Palmerston Sewage Treatment Plant inlet
  • Bridle/Catalina Road intersection
  • Stow Road pump station (Isolated to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility)

Quotes attributable to Acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Charles Pain:

“We have seen success in the use of COVID-19 wastewater testing in other Australian jurisdictions as an early detection tool and to support a targeted approach to increase COVID-19 testing in certain geographical areas.

“It is reassuring to see the detection of COVID-19 in our wastewater from the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility, as this indicates that our system is accurately detecting fragments where we expect them.

“As we continue to sample waste water, we expect that we may see positive detections in other sites, even if there are no cases in the community, as it is well known that people shed fragments of the virus for months after clinically recovering from COVID-19.

“Wastewater testing adds another layer of protection and strengthens our position in the fight against COVID-19 and to keep Territorians safe.”

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