The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Council repeals pitbull ban, considers testing biosolids for covid-19


September 24, 2020

On Monday, the Cathlamet Town Council deliberated on a myriad of agenda items including the possibility of conducting covid-19 tests of biosolids from the town’s sewer system. The test would determine whether or not the virus has entered the system through public, commercial and residential spaces.

Other items included an update on the town’s dock repair which appears gridlocked. Public Works Director David McNally stated that because of both the high cost of replacement and extent of damage to the dock, “nobody wants to repair them and nobody wants to go through the hassle of replacing them.”

Council members moved to investigate the benefits of harvesting 70 acres of town timber. They also discussed the development of the waterfront park and whether filling the lagoon or modifying existing pipelines should come next. Port District 1 liaison, Council Member Paige Lake, will coordinate a meeting with the port director and public works director.

Among items voted on, a motion was passed to repeal a town ordinance banning pitbulls within town limits, which was deemed unenforceable. However, the state’s dangerous dog laws would still be enforced.

The council passed a motion to payout a contract with a contractor and agreed the town’s vetting process needs to be revisited.

After months of coordination by Council Member David Olson and a follow up by Council Member Laurel Waller, a resolution was passed to acknowledge the existence of a pool advisory committee. Finally, an amendment relating to council meeting procedures was tabled until more information was gathered about changing public comment protocol.

The council took time to consider possible uses of the biosolids produced at the town waste water treatment plant,

On June 1, the Chinook Observer reported that the City of Long Beach contracted a Massachusetts-based company, Biobot Analytics, Inc., to test their sewer system for traces of covid-19. Waller entertained a similar idea for the town’s own system.

“It's a way of watching the community without having to wait for someone to have symptoms or have someone get caught in contact tracing. There are a lot of places doing this and there is an effort to gather this information and report to the nation,” explained Waller.

According to the Observer, the test would cost $120 and take five to seven days for results, Waller said. She suggested using the CARES Act to fund the tests. Council Member Bill Wainwright added that county Commissioner Mike Backman could look into sharing the cost with the county, and Backman, present at the council meeting, agreed to do so.

Wainwright and Waller continued that the town has seen an influx of tourists this summer which could put residents at risk. Periodic testing before and after high traffic weekends could trace the virus back to a specific timeframe.

There are a number of people, mentioned Wainwright, “coming into town every weekend that could expose people at The Spar, the brewery, people getting groceries, etc. So it’s a huge issue.”

McNally has agreed to contact the City of Longbeach and Biobot to gather more detail regarding the implementation of testing, but challenged the validity of the test.

“Essentially, the only real tangible data you can get is ‘absent’ or ‘present’ in the system,” McNally said.

Wainwright quickly stated that knowing whether covid-19 was present in the sewer system was the most salient point of the test. If the test came back positive, he continued, residents could be notified and would have incentive to social-distance and follow other safety protocols.

Although the Center for Disease Control claims that testing, or “wastewater infectious disease surveillance,” can help inform communities about the spread of covid, “low levels of infection may not be captured.”


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