Assessment of Commonly Measured Wastewater Parameters to Estimate Sewershed Populations for Use in Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: Insights into Population Dynamics in New York City during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Catherine Hoar, Yitao Li, Andrea I. Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Understanding per capita rates of disease incidence or prevalence from wastewater surveillance data requires an estimate of the population contributing to wastewater samples, given that populations in large urban areas are dynamic, especially if major events, such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, cause large population shifts. To assess whether commonly measured wastewater parameters can be used to estimate sewershed populations, we used wastewater data collected from New York City's (NYC) 14 wastewater treatment facilities to evaluate the relationship between influent loads of four wastewater parameters-ammonia, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total suspended solids, and five-day carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand-and census-based population estimates of the corresponding sewersheds during 2019, when populations were assumed to be relatively stable. Ammonia mass load had the most consistent relationship with sewershed population, regardless of wet weather contributions to NYC's predominantly combined sewer system. Changes in ammonia loads due to COVID-19 restrictions enacted in March 2020 generally reflected population shifts in sewersheds serving areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, for which previous studies report decreased commuter mobility and residential populations. Our findings highlight the utility of ammonia mass load in influent wastewater as a population indicator to normalize wastewater-based epidemiology data and track sewershed population dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Environmental Science and Technology Water
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • ammonia mass loads
  • COVID-19
  • population dynamics
  • population indicator
  • wastewater constituents
  • wastewater-based epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology

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