Historically, wastewater surveillance has been used to track things such as opioid use and STD transmission in a particular geographic area. During the 789th meeting of the Mammoth Community Water District Board of Directors, they discussed its potential in monitoring viruses in Mono County – specifically, in monitoring Covid-19.
During the meeting, the board considered a request from Mono County to start sampling Mammoth’s wastewater for pathogens, which many communities are apparently now doing- especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has scientists and health experts desperate to learn more about how the virus spreads and manifests in populations.
The agenda item began with Jennifer Burrows and Emily Janoff from the Mono County Public Health Department presenting a formal powerpoint explaining the benefits of wastewater surveillance in Mammoth.
The hour-long discussion following the agenda item’s presentation was an opportunity for community members still bitter about Mono County’s management of Covid-19 to speak passionately against government surveillance.
The conversation quickly left the scope of local policy, spiraling into dissent towards government mandates of any kind, in any setting, both nationally and globally.
The situation appeared to be a microcosm and testament to just how much the nation’s faith in government has eroded over the past 2 years.
Burrows opened the presentation by toting the benefits of wastewater surveillance. “We are now living with Covid-19. It will probably never go away. It’ll be decades that it stays with us, most likely. We have to learn to live with it like we’ve learned to live with the flu and everything else,” she explained.
“One way to do that is with wastewater surveillance, which allows us to identify trends and prepare ourselves for what may come in the future.”
Mono County officials have already been working with the water district to secure an “auto-sampler” for wastewater – which they’ve been able to do through a grant they acquired with the assistance of the water district. The county has also already secured a lab to process the results. “All we need to do now is secure a contract with you, Mammoth Water District,” said Burrows.
Janoff then presented exactly what the County would be planning to do with the wastewater data it would be collecting.
According to Calif. Department of Public Health, there’s currently an estimated 130 million people covered by waste water surveillance across the United States, which is approximately 50% of the U.S. population served by municipal wastewater utilities.
In California, there’s an estimated 25 million citizens covered by wastewater surveillance, or about 64% of the state’s population. At least 55 of California’s wastewater treatment plants are currently participating in wastewater surveillance to help inform their communities of local Covid trends.
“Specifically, we’re interested in a more accurate description of local virus levels,” said Janoff. “Testing numbers in the area are down. This is partially due to diminished urgency around Covid status, and also the increased use of at-home tests, which are not being reported. So this is data that we can collect that doesn’t solely rely on the population of people that are visiting testing sites,” she explained.
Wastewater surveillance can detect increases in local levels of viruses sometimes weeks before case counts and hospital admits start to tick up. “This could help us prepare for a potential surge by giving us a heads up for when to start increasing resources, staffing, etc.,” said Janoff. Wastewater surveillance would also provide the ability to track new variants of viruses as they enter the area.
“We have a variety of different data points that we are monitoring at any given time, and this would simply add to our bag, if you will, and give us some more insight,” said Janoff. “Establishing a local baseline of historical data and trends of SARS-CoV-2 levels will be useful to us going forward, as we would also be able to reference past levels and how they’ve changed.”
The conversation then opened up for public comment from community members.
This included one spokesperson for the Mono County Authority (MCA), as well as self-described “voice for the residents of Mono County against the overreach of county offices trying to impose additional sanctions against the residents and business owners of this community.”
“First, I want to commend this town for having the courage to meet us face-to-face,” he began.
He continued: “Over the past two years, the town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County have suffered from the gross mismanagement of the Mono County Board of Health … Lives have been ruined, businesses have been lost, and the social-economic damage of a global scale has only begun to be understood. It’s time to put this to an end. Respectfully. And expunge the perpetrators … I can back up everything that I claim with peer-reviewed data. I’ve got terabytes of data.”
Another MCA member then spoke: “I say ‘alleged Covid virus’ because the concept of respiratory viruses is still only a theory, believe it or not. It’s not fact. The Mono County Department of Health’s claim that wastewater surveillance would help the community … is on an unfounded, steaming pile of excrement.”
Next was Dr. Gaylon Teslaa, a practicing veterinarian in Mono County since 2004. He cited an international grand jury testimony “consisting of criminal practices committed by media and governments worldwide involving international lawyers, experts and world leaders in science from various fields as well as the British Intelligence Services, Royal Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, World Health Organization, United Nations, Former Vice President from Pfizer, and many other high level experts.”
“The testimony gathered undeniable evidence that the alleged Covid-19 pandemic amounted to a series of unprecedented crimes against humanity, with the instigating entities being the very same cast of characters responsible for perpetrating and instigating World Wars 1 and 2 and the vast majority of world crises since … conclusions drawn concur undeniably that the world’s governments are under the control and influence of corrupt and criminal power structures which collaborated in the staging of a worldwide pandemic that they had been planning for many years,” he said. He ended his speech by saying, “The only reasonable or realistic path forward, offering a chance at restoration of faith, is to purge everything involving Covid-19 and the mandates.”
The County was then given the opportunity to respond to the public comments made.
After a few moments of stunned, awkward silence, Jennifer Burrows said, “I don’t know that we want to respond to this. There’s a lot of misinformation that we’ve heard here tonight. I don’t think at this time we want to engage in the difference between beliefs and facts.”
Robert Creasy motioned to approve the agenda item, saying, “Public Health is one of the most powerful means that we have in providing medical services to our community and same with the country, and it’s not a perfect science by any means, but its effective.”
Nobody seconded the motion. Due to this, it fell through.
The Sheet caught up with Board member Tom Cage to get his feelings on the meeting.
“In short order, we listened to both sides,” said Cage. “I just couldn’t get my arms around how it could actually, truly benefit the community, right here locally. I am not going to rubber stamp everything that people want to do just because they want to do it. It just didn’t make sense to me how the project would benefit the community.”