The Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District is participating in a University of Minnesota Study to shed light on the prevalence and spread of the coronavirus in communities.

Led by Dr. Glenn Simmons Jr. and Dr. Richard Melvin of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the U of M Medical School’s Duluth campus, the initiative will analyze samples provided by CIRSSD and other wastewater facilities for COVID-19.

The CIRSSD is a member of the Minnesota Environmental Science and Economic Review Board (MSERB), a municipal joint powers organization with more than 50 cities, sanitary districts and public utilities commissions that own and operate wastewater treatment facilities in Greater Minnesota. Located just east of Chisholm, the CIRSSD Craig S. Pulford Wastewater Treatment Plant serves the communities of Chisholm, Buhl, Kinney and Great Scott Township.

“As wastewater professionals, we have the technology, training and expertise to assist with this study,” Norm Miranda, CIRSSD Executive Director and member of the MESERB Executive Committee, wrote this week in a news release. “Our facility staff know how to handle wastewater materials and can provide the influent samples necessary to provide the University with important information about the presence of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Wastewater samples are expected to be collected and tested over the next several months. Information gleaned from the study will be shared with the Minnesota Department of Health and the broader scientific community to assist health care professionals and government leaders as they develop testing and mitigation strategies in the ongoing fight against the disease.

Miranda noted he is glad that the CIRSSD and other MESERB members’ wastewater facilities can play a role in helping the U of M researchers and their respective communities gather data to aid in developing a better understanding of COVID-19.

“Most importantly, the CIRSSD and our citizens received over $18 million in grant dollars from the State of Minnesota to complete the original facility in 2013 and the mercury removal upgrade in 2016,” Miranda wrote. “I strongly believe our participation in this project and active involvement in advisory committees and other projects to further research into improved and more cost-effective wastewater management and treatment across Minnesota in a small part repays that debt.

“Our wastewater facilities serve thousands of Minnesotans every day, all of whom are affected by this crisis,” Miranda added. “We want to do our part to ensure that the information necessary to combat this virus is brought to light.”

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