Wastewater Testing and COVID-19

Wastewater surveillance testing has resumed in the City of Bozeman as of October 2023. Data can be found via the dashboards below- COVID-19 data will be updated every Monday and Narcotic data will be updated every other Monday. Testing wastewater to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 has the potential to be an early warning sign for COVID-19 spreading in our community. Tracking narcotic levels in wastewater provides a broad picture of substance use within the community by estimating the quantity being consumed. The results cannot be traced to a specific neighborhood or household. The data will allow us to remain informed while addressing the increasing number of overdoses in the community.

For help understanding wastewater testing, read the FAQs further down on this page. Additional information on wastewater COVID-19 testing in other parts of Montana and the United States can be found via CDC’s Data Tracker.

For historical wastewater testing data collected from various Gallatin County communities between May 2020 to December 2022, click the toggles below.

Summary Information for the City of Bozeman

  • 3/23/2020 – Sample positive
  • 3/27/2020 – Sample positive
  • 3/30/2020 – Sample positive
  • 4/01/2020 – Sample positive
  • 4/03/2020 – Sample positive
  • 4/06/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 4/08/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 4/15/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 4/22/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 4/29/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 5/06/2020 – No virus detected
  • 5/13/2020 – No virus detected
  • 5/20/2020 – No virus detected
  • 5/27/2020 – No virus detected
  • 6/03/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/05/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/08/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/10/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/12/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/15/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/17/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/19/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/22/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/24/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/26/2020 – Sample positive
  • 6/29/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/1/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/3/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/6/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/8/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/13/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/15/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/17/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/20/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/22/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/24/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/27/2020 – Sample positive
  • 7/29/2020 – Sample positive
  • 8/5/2020 – Sample positive
  • 8/12/2020 – Sample positive
  • 8/19/2020 – Sample positive
  • 8/26/2020 – Under detection limit
  • 9/2/2020 – No virus detected
  • 9/9/2020 – Sample positive
  • 9/16/2020 – Sample positive
  • 9/23/2020 – Sample positive
  • 9/30/2020 – Sample positive
  • 10/7/2020 – Sample positive
  • 10/14/2020 – Sample positive
  • 10/21/2020 – Sample positive
  • 10/28/2020 – Sample positive
  • 11/4/2020 – Sample positive
  • 11/11/2020 – Sample positive
  • 11/18/2020 – Sample positive
  • 11/25/2020 – Sample positive
  • 12/2/2020 – Sample positive
  • 12/9/2020 – Sample positive
  • 12/16/2020 – Sample positive
  • 12/23/2020 – Sample positive
  • 12/30/2020 – Sample positive
  • 1/6/2021 – Sample positive
  • 1/13/2021 – Sample positive
  • 1/20/2021 – Sample positive
  • 1/27/2021 – Sample positive
  • 2/3/2021 – Sample positive
  • 2/10/2021 – Sample positive
  • 2/17/2021 – Sample positive
  • 2/24/2021 – Sample positive
  • 3/3/2021 – Sample positive
  • 3/10/2021 – Sample positive
  • 3/17/2021 – Sample positive
  • 3/24/2021 – Sample positive
  • 3/31/2021 – Sample positive
  • 4/7/2021 – Sample positive
  • 4/14/2021 – Sample positive
  • 4/21/2021 – Sample positive
  • 4/28/2021 – Sample positive
  • 5/5/2021 – Sample positive
  • 5/12/2021 – Sample positive
  • 5/19/2021 – Sample positive
  • 5/26/2021 – Sample positive
  • 6/2/2021 – Sample positive
  • 6/9/2021 – Sample positive
  • Sampling temporarily suspended
  • 9/7/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/9/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/14/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/16/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/21/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/23/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/28/2021 – Sample positive
  • 9/30/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/5/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/7/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/12/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/14/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/19/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/21/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/26/2021 – Sample positive
  • 10/28/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/2/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/4/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/9/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/11/2021 –  Sample positive
  • 11/16/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/18/2021 –  Sample positive
  • 11/23/2021 – Sample positive
  • 11/25/2021 – No sample collected
  • 11/30/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/2/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/7/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/9/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/14/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/16/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/21/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/23/2021 – No sample collected
  • 12/28/2021 – Sample positive
  • 12/30/2021 – Sample positive
  • 1/4/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/6/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/11/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/13/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/18/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/20/2022 – Sample positive
  • 1/27/2022 – Sample positive
  • 2/3/2022 – Sample positive
  • 2/10/2022 – Sample positive
  • 2/17/2022 – Sample positive
  • 2/24/2022 – Sample positive
  • 3/3/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 3/10/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 3/17/2022 – Sample positive
  • 3/24/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 3/31/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 4/7/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 4/14/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 4/21/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 4/28/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 5/5/2022 – Under detection limit
  • 5/12/2022 – Sample positive
  • 5/19/2022 – Sample positive
  • 5/26/2022 – Sample positive
  • 6/2/2022 – Sample positive
  • 6/9/2022 – Sample positive
  • 6/16/2022 – Sample positive
  • 6/23/2022 – Sample positive
  • 6/30/2022 – Sample positive
  • 7/7/2022 – Sample positive
  • 7/14/2022 – Sample positive
  • 7/21/2022 – Sample positive
  • 7/28/2022 – Sample positive
  • 8/4/2022 – Sample positive
  • 8/11/2022 – Sample positive
  • 8/18/2022 – Sample positive
  • 8/25/2022 – Sample positive
  • 8/31/2022 – Sample positive
  • 9/1/2022 – Sampling discontinued

Wastewater data for Bozeman were previously being provided by the Wiedenheft Lab at MSU. Wastewater samples are collected at the Bozeman Water Reclamation Facility (BWRF) that receives and treats domestic, commercial, and industrial wastewater from the City of Bozeman, Montana (USA). RNA isolated from the wastewater is tested for SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19) using diagnostic kit developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The test detects two distinct regions of the nucleocapsid (N) gene from SARS-CoV-2 genome (i.e. N1 and N2). Samples that result in both N1 and N2 above the detection limit are considered positive, while detection of only one region (N1 or N2) or testing below the detection limit is considered negative. Temporal dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 RNA (line graph) is superimposed on the epidemiological data (bar plot). Bars represent number of patients who reported symptom onset on the specified day.

We are grateful to Josh French, Justin Roberts, and the other dedicated wastewater technicians at BWRF that made this work possible.

Summary Information for Big Sky Water & Sewer District #363

Wastewater data for Big Sky were previously being provided by Archer Biologicals, LLC.

Summary Information for the Town of West Yellowstone

Wastewater data for West Yellowstone were previously being provided by Archer Biologicals, LLC.

Summary Information for the City of Three Forks

Wastewater data for Three Forks were previously being provided by Archer Biologicals, LLC.

The Belgrade site is no longer in service.
Summary Information for the City of Belgrade

Wastewater data for Belgrade were previously being provided by Archer Biologicals, LLC.

Wastewater Testing FAQs

The wastewater testing that has been completed so far tells us at least two key pieces of information:

  1. Finding the virus in wastewater has either come just before or at the same time as new confirmed cases in the Bozeman area. This gives us information about where the virus is and where it is spreading. For example, if the virus is found in wastewater in towns with no confirmed cases, this could mean that new cases will soon appear. In towns where no virus is found in the wastewater, this could mean that few people, if any, are infected in the community.
  2. Wastewater testing also shows whether viral levels in wastewater are going up, staying the same, or going down from week to week. For example, decreasing virus levels in wastewater seems to be linked with decreasing numbers of new confirmed cases.

Please note that testing results will only represent the people in a community who use the wastewater system. This means that wastewater results will not be able to predict all new confirmed cases.

COVID task force members, the health department, and the health officer will use these test results, along with many other pieces of information, to make public health decisions.

Wastewater testing is one promising piece of the complex COVID-19 puzzle. We’re still learning a lot about this new virus, how it spreads, and how all of our actions impact the number of new confirmed cases.

These test results are a promising tool to help make our community safer. By pinpointing COVID-19 hotspots, we can direct resources that protect vulnerable populations more efficiently.

Viruses are complex living things made up of genetic material. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2. One of the genes in SARS-CoV-2 is called the “nucleocapsid.” SARS-CoV-2 RNA is measured in wastewater by amplifying the nucleocapsid gene, which is then used to estimate the viral load based on daily wastewater flow and population size.

When virus is found in a sample, we try to estimate how many viruses are present. This helps us understand whether viral levels found in wastewater are going up, staying the same, or going down from week to week. When we report the results, we calculate the number of viruses found in a wastewater sample. They are reported as genomes per liter.

Wastewater surveillance is based on the fact that we excrete traces of infections and almost everything we consume through our urine, feces, and saliva. People infected with COVID-19 can shed viral RNA (genetic material from the virus) in their urine/feces, and this RNA can be detected in community wastewater. Similarly, people using illicit substances can shed traces of drugs metabolites (byproducts of the body breaking down drugs), which can also be detected in community wastewater.

Wastewater is collected using an “autosampler.” This is a special pump that pulls water at set intervals over a 24-hour period. The sample is called a “composite” sample because it represents many individual samples. The samples are then sent to various laboratories for testing and data is shared with the health department.

Testing would not be possible without the help and expertise of our laboratory partners and the dedicated staff at our public wastewater systems. Thank you to Archer Biologicals, BioBot, and the Wastewater Superintendents, operators and foremen at the City of Bozeman.

  • SARS-CoV-2 testing is conducted by Archer Biologicals, LLC.
  • Illicit substance testing is currently conducted by BioBot Analytics.
  • Funding for testing wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 in the City of Bozeman is provided by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MTDPHHS).
  • Funding for testing wastewater for illicit substances in the City of Bozeman is through BioBot and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).