YORKSHIRE Water's Esholt treatment facility is involved in a Government-led experiment looking for traces of Covid-19 in raw sewage to identify local outbreak.

It is sampling sewage from 10 wastewater treatment works as part of two projects trying to identify outbreaks of the deadly virus.

Data collected is being shared with the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs and Sheffield University.

It is aiming to detect markers of Covid-19 in sewage, as research has indicated fragments of genetic material from the virus can be found in wastewater.

The results will be used to help researchers understand the presence of Covid-19 in the population.

As well as Esholt, sewage at treatment works in Dewsbury, Hull, Knostrop and sites around Sheffield is being tested for the projects.

James Harrison, head of wastewater asset management at Yorkshire Water, said: “We have rolled testing processes across ten of our sites as part of these two projects. We are pleased to be playing a part in the earlier detection of Covid-19 outbreaks in the region and nationally.

“The samples will be tested for markers of Covid-19, which cannot cause infection but do indicate infection within the population.

"We are still in the early stages of the project, but the data has the potential to uncover new outbreaks before medical testing.”

Defra secretary George Eustice added: "This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates both nationally and locally, particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren’t showing any symptoms and therefore aren’t seeking tests.

“NHS Test and Trace is able to use the science to ensure local health leads are alerted and can take action.”