National Wastewater Surveillance System

Questions & Answers


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) is a new public health tool to understand COVID-19 spread in a community. CDC NWSS provides data storage, analysis, and visualization for state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to submit wastewater testing data. These data may then be used to better understand COVID-19 and inform public health action.

LuminUltra has partnered with the CDC and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) to monitor the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater throughout the United States. This project will provide wastewater testing from December 2021 to March 2022.

Sewage surveillance can be a leading indicator of changes in COVID-19 burden in a community. About 40-80% of infected people will shed SARS-CoV-2 material in their stool. Importantly, SARS-CoV-2 can be shed in the feces of individuals with either symptomatic or asymptomatic infection. Wastewater surveillance can capture data on both types of infections. Wastewater surveillance can also provide information on COVID-19 regardless of clinical test availability or healthcare-seeking behavior.

Quantitative SARS-CoV-2 measurements in untreated sewage can provide information on changes in total SARS-CoV-2 infection in the community. The levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater can be measured over time to establish trends. These trends–whether they are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same—provide communities with data on COVID-19 spread. Other nations have successfully used sewage surveillance as a method for detection of other diseases, such as polio.


Your data will be reported to CDC NWSS and will help public health officials to better understand the extent of SARS-CoV-2 infections in communities. Your community’s data will be made available to you, which you can then analyze and share with your community. Sewage testing over time can provide trend data that can complement other surveillance data that informs public health decision making.

Learn how your data is used.

Send us a 250 mL sample of your untreated influent wastewater twice a week. Partner utilities will send samples on either a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule. LuminUltra Technologies will provide all materials to collect and cold-ship the sample, and will cover all shipping costs. Utilities may be replaced if they do not send in samples on the arranged sampling schedule.

Nothing! Participation in the program is free and you will not be invoiced for anything from LuminUltra Technologies for participating in this program. We will provide you bottles, gel packs, return shipping packaging and pre-paid shipping labels – everything you need to send us a sample.

No. Participation in the program is free and completely voluntary.

After submitting your information, it typically takes 1-2 days to verify your information and send you confirmation of enrollment and request for additional data.

Within 1-2 days of registration, we will send you an e-mail requesting additional information about the WWTP where samples are collected. This information will include basic information such as average daily flow and permitted capacity of the plant.

Once we receive that information, your registration will we be complete and we will immediately overnight you a starter testing kit that will include your first sampling bottles. Within 24 hours you will receive an e-mail confirming your sampling schedule and confirming that the remaining sampling materials are being sent.

This phase of the program lasts for 13 weeks. Your actual testing duration may be shorter, depending on when you enrolled in the program.

Sample submission, reporting and privacy

The samples will be shipped to LuminUltra Technologies’ lab, where the samples will be processed. Data from these samples will be sent to CDC. Your community’s data will be available on the internal CDC NWSS DCIPHER online platform, where you can see analyses, visualizations, and download your raw data.

A subset of data elements may be made public on the COVID Data Tracker.

LuminUltra Technologies will securely report your data to the CDC as part of the NWSS. Your data can be accessed online by registering for the CDC’s Data Collation and Integration for Public Health Event Responses (DCIPHER). Only your health department will have access to download your community’s data through DCIPHER.

In addition to your data being contributed to the NWSS, LuminUltra technologies will provide a weekly report of your samples, showing the amount normalized virus concentration of each sample along with the trend of all samples taken, and data about variants of concern when available.

Access to DCIPHER is restricted to parties approved by the CDC, and registrants to DCIPHER must sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) upon registration. Most information from your WWTP will be hidden from other participating plants in DCIPHER. Other plants will only see your WWTP name and overall trends of SARS-COV-2 levels at your location (ZIP code)

CDC will also be sharing a subset of your data to COVID Tracker, a public dashboard that will allow the public to see SARS-COV-2 trending data at participating locations. Therefore, a limited amount of information (County name, FIPS Codes, and SARS-COV-2 trending data) can be requested by the public. No institution data will be made public.

Plants on Tribal land, or plants primarily servicing a Tribal community, will not have their data included on COVID Data Tracker. Individual Tribes can opt in to contributing their data to COVID Tracker by contacting LuminUltra Technologies and the CDC.

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