Covid-19 sewage testing to begin soon across NWT

Regular testing of NWT residents’ sewage for Covid-19 – announced in September – has yet to begin in earnest but is to be introduced imminently, officials say.

Sewage sampling is considered an “early warning system for the territory,” potentially allowing identification of Covid-19’s presence before it turns up in regular tests.

It could mean detecting the virus four to 10 days faster than by other methods, the GNWT believes.


The territory in September said it planned to roll out sewage checks in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Inuvik, and Fort Simpson.

At a Hay River town council meeting on Monday this week, town director of public works Mike Auge confirmed the town has received the machine needed to carry out the testing. It should be operational soon, he said.

“It should be getting set up this week or next,” Auge told councillors, adding staff were “just working out the requirements for set-up and the requirements for the testing and submitting those tests.”

A news release from the territorial government on Monday stated sewage testing will also soon be implemented in Yellowknife, the results of which will “provide additional details public health can use to further assess risk.”

“I imagine if Yellowknife is almost up and running, we are probably in the same place,” said Hay River’s mayor, Kandis Jameson, at Monday’s meeting.


“My understanding is that it’s supposed to be working hand-in-hand.”

The territorial government has previously cautioned that a positive case found in sewage does not necessarily equate to Covid-19 transmission in a community. The virus could, for example, have come from a patient who recently travelled and is properly isolating.

“Collecting this information can serve as an early warning system for the territory and help the health and social services system target advice to communities as the pandemic continues,” the territory said in September.

“The chief public health officer would alert the public regarding positive wastewater results and provide applicable guidance at that time.”