The Houston Health Department announced Wednesday it is now recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a National Wastewater Surveillance System Center of Excellence.
Houston and Colorado are the only jurisdictions that have received the designation, the Houston Health Department said in a release.
The department monitors SARS-CoV-2 at 39 wastewater treatment plants, 73 manholes, and 63 lift stations for more than two million people across Houston.
The department and Rice University began testing the city’s wastewater in May 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People infected with COVID-19 shed viral particles. By testing the wastewater, the health department can track whether levels of the virus in different areas of the city are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.
An interactive dashboard displays levels of the virus in samples collected weekly. The data helps identify the prevalence of the virus at the community level.
“Earning the CDC’s Center of Excellence award demonstrates just how important our wastewater surveillance work is to public health, the city, and the entire country,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a release. “This initiative allowed HHD to identify and contain the virus from spreading in our community. I want to commend HHD and all the partners for their hard work and dedication to protecting Houstonians.”