Tracing the coronavirus through sewer pipes in Oregon

Jun 29, 2020

Jason Cook is wearing a blue dotted mask and a large button on his neon safety vest that reads “Let’s Keep Our Distance.” It’s a good reminder in the age of COVID-19, but maybe one that’s not really necessary for a man wielding a crowbar and collecting water from sewers.

Cook, a university intern with Clean Water Services, uses the crowbar to pull aside a manhole cover, releasing a wave of stink from the open sewer line below.

“We have this stainless-steel little bucket and then we’re dropping it into the stream,” he said.


The shiny metal cup is lowered on a rope. A hollow clanking sound rings out as the cup bounces off the sides and bottom of the concrete tube.

Apparently not many people in the area are washing their hands, taking showers or flushing their toilets. When Cook pulls up the cup, there’s very little liquid.

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