RUSC approved pilot project to test wastewater for drug use

The Cold Lake Regional Utility Service Commission (RUSC) has approved a proof-of-concept study to see if wastewater can be tested to reveal the amount and types of substance of abuse in the community.

The initial test will be to establish the proof-of-concept to see the data that is collected from the wastewater samples and determine if establishing a regular testing program would be of use to policymakers and law enforcement.

“There is a possibility that this proof-of-concept study can give local policymakers, local law enforcement, and the general public a tool that can shed light into a behavior that is difficult to fully quantify and understand,” RUSC Chairman Ryan Bailey said. “Knowing what substances are being abused and the trends that substance abuse follows in a community will allow local programs to better respond to the challenges that substance abuse can cause.”

The plan for a proof-of-concept for the measurement of substances of potential abuse was created by the University of Calgary’s Advancing Canadian Water Assets team. The proof-of-concept will use three wastewater samples collected over one week. The samples will be tested for the presence of 46 substances of possible abuse.

Statistics Canada has performed a similar analysis in significant cities, and its findings showed that different cities have different and district drug-use profiles. The information can be used by local law enforcement, policymakers, health care providers and social service agencies to target their approach to the types of substances being used and the negative social and health impacts they can cause.

Regular data collection can help to establish different trends, seasonal changes, and trends within different areas of the City of Cold Lake.

The proof-of-concept testing is expected to be completed by January 1, 2024. The results will be presented to Cold Lake RUSC at a future meeting. The commission will review the data collected to determine if a longer or a more in-depth study would prove useful.

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