For their efforts to create and manage a wastewater monitoring system on the Colorado State University campus, CEE Associate Professor Susan De Long and Professor Carol Wilusz of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology received the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes meritorious and outstanding achievement over a five-year period by full-time members of the academic faculty and administrative professional staff. The award was established as a tribute to Pennock, who served as a distinguished professor of civil engineering in the 1920s.
De Long’s citation reads: Together, Drs. De Long and Wilusz and their students worked throughout 2020 and 2021 to design, implement, and manage a wastewater testing system that allowed for rapid detection of Covid-19 spikes, days before infections would become symptomatic. Wearing Tyvek suits, Dr. De Long and her team of students were out in the field six days a week to collect liters of sewage from sewer access points around campus. Samples were then delivered to Dr. Wilusz’s Molecular Quantification Core laboratory, where she and her students and technicians also worked long hours, searching for the virus in the collected wastewater. By monitoring 17 sewage sites on campus that could be linked to specific locations, decision makers were able to focus limited resources where they were needed most. Specifically, before saliva screening made campus-wide testing cost-effective, University leadership used wastewater data to identify populations for the more expensive nasal swab testing. Drs. De Long and Wilusz also advised numerous universities, biotech companies, and municipalities on how to implement wastewater testing. Not only did their efforts gain national attention, but they led to an entire new area of research and discovery at CSU – that of wastewater epidemiology.