Wastewater-based epidemiology has expanded as a tool for collecting COVID-19 surveillance data, but there is limited information on the feasibility of this form of surveillance within decentralized wastewater systems (e.g., septic systems). This study assessed SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater samples from a septic system servicing a mobile home park (66 households) and from two pumping stations serving a similarly sized (71 households) and a larger (1,000 households) neighborhood within a nearby sewershed over 35 weeks in 2020. Also, raw wastewater from a hospital in the same sewershed was sampled. The mobile home park samples had the highest detection frequency (39/39 days) and mean concentration of SARS-CoV-2 RNA (2.7 × 107 gene copies/person/day for the N1) among the four sampling sites. N1 gene and N2 gene copies were highly correlated across mobile home park samples (Pearson's r = 0.93, p < 0.0001). In the larger neighborhood, new COVID-19 cases were reported every week during the sampling period; however, we detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 12% of the corresponding wastewater samples. The results of this study suggest that sampling from decentralized wastewater infrastructure can be used for continuous monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

  • Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid is feasible within shared septic systems.

  • Wastewater-based epidemiology should be extended to small-scale decentralized systems to expand monitoring to populations that may experience health crises in unique ways.

  • The effectiveness of sub-sewershed monitoring (e.g., neighborhood pump stations) for COVID-19 surveillance is influenced by the scale of populations being served.

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