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  1. To evaluate the use of wastewater-based surveillance and epidemiology to monitor and predict SARS-CoV-2 virus trends, over the 2020–2021 academic year we collected wastewater samples twice weekly from 17 manholes across Virginia Tech’s main campus. We used data from external door swipe card readers and student isolation/quarantine status to estimate building-specific occupancy and COVID-19 case counts at a daily resolution. After analyzing 673 wastewater samples using reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), we reanalyzed 329 samples from isolation and nonisolation dormitories and the campus sewage outflow using reverse transcription digital droplet polymerase chain reaction (RT-ddPCR). Population-adjusted viral copy means from isolation dormitory wastewater were 48% and 66% higher than unadjusted viral copy means for N and E genes (1846/100 mL to 2733/100 mL/100 people and 2312/100 mL to 3828/100 mL/100 people, respectively; n = 46). Prespecified analyses with random-effects Poisson regression and dormitory/cluster-robust standard errors showed that the detection of N and E genes were associated with increases of 85% and 99% in the likelihood of COVID-19 cases 8 days later (incident–rate ratio (IRR) = 1.845, p = 0.013 and IRR = 1.994, p = 0.007, respectively; n = 215), and one-log increases in swipe card normalized viral copiesmore »(copies/100 mL/100 people) for N and E were associated with increases of 21% and 27% in the likelihood of observing COVID-19 cases 8 days following sample collection (IRR = 1.206, p < 0.001, n = 211 for N; IRR = 1.265, p < 0.001, n = 211 for E). One-log increases in swipe normalized copies were also associated with 40% and 43% increases in the likelihood of observing COVID-19 cases 5 days after sample collection (IRR = 1.403, p = 0.002, n = 212 for N; IRR = 1.426, p < 0.001, n = 212 for E). Our findings highlight the use of building-specific occupancy data and add to the evidence for the potential of wastewater-based epidemiology to predict COVID-19 trends at subsewershed scales.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 13, 2023
  2. Inland freshwater salinity is rising worldwide, a phenomenon called the freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS). We investigate a potential conflict between managing the FSS and indirect potable reuse, the practice of augmenting water supplies through the addition of highly treated wastewater (reclaimed water) to surface waters and groundwaters. From time-series data collected over 25 years, we quantify the contributions of three salinity sources—a water reclamation facility and two rapidly urbanizing watersheds—to the rising concentration of sodium (a major ion associated with the FSS) in a regionally important drinking-water reservoir in the Mid-Atlantic United States. Sodium mass loading to the reservoir is primarily from watershed runoff during wet weather and reclaimed water during dry weather. Across all timescales evaluated, sodium concentration in the reclaimed water is higher than in outflow from the two watersheds. Sodium in reclaimed water originates from chemicals added during wastewater treatment, industrial and commercial discharges, human excretion and down-drain disposal of drinking water and sodium-rich household products. Thus, numerous opportunities exist to reduce the contribution of indirect potable reuse to sodium pollution at this site, and the FSS more generally. These efforts will require deliberative engagement with a diverse community of watershed stakeholders and careful consideration of themore »local political, social and environmental context.« less