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University of Akron Conducts Wastewater Research to Test for Coronavirus On-campus

Wastewater Samples
John Senko
University of Akron
The University of Akron's wastewater monitoring project is funded through a series of CARES Act grants designated by the State of Ohio for the pandemic.

The University of Akron is joining other Ohio schools in analyzing samples of on-campus wastewater for COVID-19.

The monitoring project is headed by John Senko, an associate professor of geosciences and biology at the University of Akron.

Senko and his team of one research associate, one graduate student and two undergraduate students are working with university plumbers to obtain waste samples from five residence halls—Spanton Hall, Bulger Hall, South Hall, Exchange Street Apartments and the Honors Complex.

“We bring that raw sewage back. We filter it to try to concentrate all of the muck in the sewage and then we extract the the RNA from the sample," Senko said. "And then we do the PCR test which is you know, again, what you would have done with [the] Q-tip in your nose swab.”

He said this technique works because traces of the virus are carried in the feces of those infected. If spikes in the amount of the virus RNA are found in samples, the team will notify the school so it can take additional preventative measures at that given residence hall.

Senko says his team is also collaborating with colleges and universities statewide, including Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University, to test wastewater samples across Ohio for traces of COVID-19 variants.