The City of Hiawatha issued a press release on Wednesday announcing that COVID-19 coronavirus was detected in the wastewater systems of Hiawatha.

This does not affect the drinking water, city officials say.

On April 24, the University of Kansas School of Engineering and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) collected samples from 12 wastewater plants, one of which was the City of Hiawatha’s, to determine if the COVID-19 virus can be detected in the wastewater systems of local communities.

“We have been informed the sample of influent wastewater (wastewater entering our sewer plant) tested positive for COVID-19,” according to the press release from City Administrator Mike Nichols.

“We have not been provided any estimate based on the test of how many positive cases they believe there were at the time of the test but, it’s safe to say COVID-19 has been present within the boundaries of the Hiawatha wastewater collection system.”

In a follow-up phone interview, Nichols said he has reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to determine what amount of COVID would have to be present to show up in the testing considering dilution with the water.

“These tests results were from two weeks ago and we still don’t have an identified case in the city that we have been notified of,” he said, noting there was one positive case in Brown County but the residence of that patient is unknown — it is just not within the city of Hiawatha. “It’s hard to determine where it came from, it could have been someone passing through town, stopped at the gas station.”

Nichols said the research group has not performed any follow up testing as of the date of this press release.

“Now that we know COVID-19 has been present in our community but, no positive cases have been identified through testing, we are hopeful the precautions we have all been taking as a community have been helping to deter the spread of COVID-19,” Nichols said.

On Sunday, the Multi-County Health Department verified one positive case of COVID-19 in the county, stating the person was in isolation at home at that time and following the advice of health officials. The identity or location of where the patient lives in the county cannot be divulged due to confidentiality.

The City of Hiawatha just announced it’s plan to reopen based on the governor’s phase plan (see other story in Friday’s issue) and is strongly encouraging people to continue taking precautions and respect the social distancing guidelines as recommended by KDHE and the CDC. The city will continue updating as more information becomes available.

Here is a news clip about the testing:


Reliable, updated information on COVID-19 can be found on these websites:

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