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Wastewater Testing in Residences

Please note the COVID-19 vaccination and daily health screening requirements remain in place until April 30. As announced by the university on April 21, the mask policies will remain in place until further notice.  Additionally physical distancing continues to be recommended whenever possible.

Ryerson’s vaccination policy and daily health screening requirement through RyersonSafe will be suspended as of May 1, 2022.

Wastewater testing is a strategy for tracking viruses, bacteria and other substances of interest in human populations. Research has shown that wastewater analysis can provide valuable insight on how COVID-19 moves through communities and help develop strategies to minimize transmission. Evidence suggests that the virus can be detected in samples of wastewater before clinical testing measures — this helps predict where new outbreaks might occur and can act as an early warning system. 

The proof is in the plumbing

An individual may be infected with the virus without knowing it for several days before symptoms appear. In some cases they may not develop symptoms at all, but they will shed particles of the virus when they exhale, talk and eliminate. If the individual uses a washroom in a facility, traces of the COVID-19 virus can be detected in the building’s wastewater. 

Since 2020, professors Kimberley Gilbride and Claire Oswald and their teams at the Urban Water Research Centre have been spearheading research in the area of wastewater monitoring for COVID-19 and how it can be scaled and applied to individual facilities, neighbourhoods and entire cities. In partnership with Toronto Public Health, Toronto Water, Unity Health, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Health they are developing and implementing tools to monitor the presence of the virus in multiple Toronto communities and facilities, including two Toronto Metropolitan University campus residences.

A positive result means that an individual who is infected with COVID-19 has used the washroom facilities in the tested building. This individual may be asymptomatic and not realize they have the virus. It could be someone who lives or works in the building, or it could be someone who has visited only once.

Results are provided to Toronto Metropolitan University’s Environmental Health and Safety team twice weekly. To rule out casual, one-time visitors to the building, two consecutive, positive wastewater tests showing the presence of COVID-19 are required for the positive to be reported here.

Two of the university’s residences are included in our wastewater testing program: the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex (DCC) and the International Living / Learning Centre (ILC). These buildings are excellent candidates for testing because they have more consistent occupants than other facilities on campus as congregate living settings. Wastewater testing provides an added layer of protection to the existing health and safety strategies put in place.

The Pitman (PIT) residence could not be included due to the configuration of the wastewater drainage system, which does not have a suitable testing location.

This website will be updated weekly to show results. Individuals living in these buildings are encouraged to review this information to stay up-to-date with results. Those who live and work in the residence are encouraged to check for updated results and where positive results  are identified to self-monitor for symptoms and to continue following good pandemic practices:

  • maintain physical distancing wherever possible
  • wear a mask in public buildings and in groups
  • wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer
  • practice good respiratory etiquette (cover your cough or sneeze)
  • avoid touching your face
  • stay home if you feel unwell

Individuals staying in residence who have questions or concerns, should connect with the front desk of the residence they are staying in:

  • Pitman Hall: 416-979-5210
  • International Living/Learning Centre: 416-979-5301
  • Daphne Cockwell Complex :416-979-5095

Test results Toronto Metropolitan University buildings participating in wastewater testing

Given the virulence of the Omicron variant and current rate of infections in Ontario, we do expect testing to show the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater testing for some time. With this in mind, community members are  reminded of how important it is to maintain our vigilance and continue to adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Our multi-layered health and safety measures continue to be critically important for reducing the transmission of COVID-19.

The data captured are reflective of results from May 1, 2022 forward.

Date of result Results
May 17, 2022 Positive
May 19, 2022 Positive

The data captured are reflective of results from May 1, 2022 forward.

Date of result Results
May 5, 2022 Positive
May 10, 2022 Positive
May 17, 2022 Positive

About the researchers involved

Kimberley Gilbride is a molecular microbiologist who has been characterizing the microbial community of wastewater treatment systems for the last 20 years. Currently, her lab focuses on microbial processes that reduce ammonia in final effluent which can impact waterways, dissemination of  antibiotic resistance genes in secondary treatment processes and more generally, contaminants of emerging concern in wastewater.

Claire Oswald’s research is inherently interdisciplinary but can be broadly categorized under the umbrellas of “watershed hydrology” and “watershed biogeochemistry”. She takes a combined field, laboratory, modelling approach and has worked across Canada. Since joining Toronto Metropolitan University, her group has undertaken research on water quantity and quality in urban streams in Ontario with a specific focus on chloride pollution from road salting.