Wastewater COVID-19 testing: Google affiliate to pay Bloomington utilities for samples

For the next year, city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) will be getting $150 per sample of wastewater that it sends to Verily Life Science for COVID-19 testing.

Bloomington’s utilities service board (USB) approved the arrangement at its regular meeting on Monday.

Under the agreement, CBU will be sending three samples a week to the California-based company through Aug. 1, 2023, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

Responding to board questions, CBU’s James Hall, who is assistant director of environmental programs, said that CBU would have access to all of the data collected, but would not have control over its publication by Verily.

Verily is a company held by Alphabet, which is the company under which Google was reorganized in 2015. Verily describes itself as a “company bringing the promise of precision health to everyone, every day.”

The samples sent to Verily will not replace the current testing of Bloomington sewage for the COVID-19 virus, which is already done by CBU, Hall said.

The COVID-19 wastewater test data that CBU has collected since this time of year in 2020 is available through Bloomington’s B Clear data portal.

Bloomington wastewater COVID-19 data starting in early May this year is available through the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS).

Even though case numbers in Monroe County have stayed relatively stable through June and July this year, Bloomington’s NWSS wastewater numbers indicate an increase for six weeks starting in June, with somewhat of a decrease over the most recent two-week period.