May 12 Board of Health Summary

Written by Comms Team, May 13, 2021

Wastewater COVID-19 Surveillance

Trent University’s Professor Christopher Kyle provided an overview on local wastewater surveillance (WWS) underway to help identify levels of COVID-19 infection in the community. A key advantage of WWS is that a single test represents an independent signal from the entire population contributing to the sampled wastewater stream regardless of health status (symptomatic, asymptomatic, or recovered) or access/utilization of clinical testing. Sampling is currently being done at the City’s wastewater treatment plant and also at the campuses for Trent University and Fleming College, as well as four retirement homes. Data so far has mostly aligned with increases and decreases in COVID-19 cases and proven to be a useful tool in detecting the presence of the virus. WWS for COVID-19, when combined with corresponding clinical testing and epidemiology data, may have potential for tracking or anticipating COVID-19 disease trends but is not yet recommended as a means to estimate prevalence. It is a rapidly evolving area of research and operationalization, and is an adjunct to clinical testing for assessing infection rates in a community.

Consumption and Treatment Site Application Update

Donna Rogers, Executive Director of Fourcast presented an overview about the status of Peterborough’s application for a Consumption and Treatment Site. The preferred location is 220 Simcoe St. in downtown Peterborough. A Health Canada exemption is required to legally allow illicit drug use within the Consumption and Treatment Site (CTS). Peterborough’s application has reached the stage where it is under review by the Director General for Health Canada approval. If this step is successful, then the application moves on to the Ministry of Health for approval of the CTS’s operating budget request. The presenters noted they have received a great deal of community support for this initiative, including donations through a recent crowdfunding initiative led by the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough. Current focus is to prepare the site so it is ready to operate as soon as approvals are finalized. This is being funded through the crowdfunding donations. Optimistically, if these approvals are confirmed in the coming months, it is hoped that the CTS can be operational before the end of the year.

BWXT Beryllium Sampling Results

Several representatives from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) presented the recent BWXT license renewal process. Following public consultation in early 2020, the CNSC asked its staff to conduct an Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) for soil and air quality at the industrial site and to resample the soil around the Prince of Wales Public School across the street. Beryllium occurs naturally in the soil so results from other sources must take into account pre-existing background levels. Beryllium concentrations in soil derived by partial digestion are well below the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks’ (MECP) upper limit of natural background in Ontario (2.5 mg/kg). Maximum concentration of environmentally available beryllium in soil was 6 times lower than the most restrictive Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment soil quality guideline for the protection of environmental and human health (4 mg/kg). Soil concentrations of beryllium are very low, and there was no evidence that the BWXT facility emissions have affected soil quality in Peterborough. In conclusion, results of the soil resampling affirms CNSC staff conclusions presented to the Commission during the March 2020 public proceedings. Sampling data demonstrates that there is no risk to the environment and to human health at the Prince of Wales Public School and on other properties adjacent to BWXT’s Peterborough facility. CNSC will continue regulatory oversight of BWXT to monitor emissions and IEMP sampling in publically accessible areas to confirm that the public and environment are protected. Discussions about the possibility of ambient air monitoring are also taking place.

COVID-19 Situational Update

Dr. Salvaterra shared the latest news on the provincial roll out of COVID-19 vaccines. The province has set a target of vaccinating 65% of all eligible adults in Ontario with their first dose by the end of May. More than 60,000 doses have been administered locally, and of these more than 55,000 local residents have received their first dose. PPH is expected to be very close in meeting this target locally, excellent progress considering many previous weeks of decreased vaccine supplies. Vaccine allocations from the province will start to increase substantially the week of May 17. With the recent provincial announcement pausing the administration the AstraZeneca vaccine, efforts are underway to develop a second-dose plan for the approx. 5,000 local residents who have already received a first dose. To accommodate a greater throughput, the Evinrude clinic will move to the Leon’s ice pad starting on June 3. As far as the local COVID-19 situation goes, Peterborough’s current weekly incidence rate is 39 cases per 100,000, reproductive rate stands at 1.0, and the testing positivity rate is similar to last month at 2.3%. The local COVID-19 outbreak is gradually improving as the stay at home order remains in place.

Next meeting: The Board of Health meets next virtually on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. Please click here for a list of Board of Health meeting dates and location details.