In a groundbreaking move, the Cold Lake Regional Utility Service Commission (RUSC) has given the green light for a proof-of-concept study aimed at testing wastewater to unveil the prevalence and types of substance abuse within the community.
The primary objective of this pilot project is to establish the viability of wastewater analysis as a tool for gathering data on drug use within the community. The insights garnered from this initiative will be pivotal in determining whether implementing a regular testing program could benefit policymakers and law enforcement agencies.
RUSC Chairman Ryan Bailey expressed optimism about the study’s potential impact on the community.
“There is a possibility that this proof-of-concept study can give local policymakers, local law enforcement, and the public a tool that can shed light on a behavior that is difficult to quantify and understand fully,” said Bailey.
“Knowing what substances are being abused and the trends that substance abuse follows in a community will allow local programs to better respond to the challenges that substance abuse can cause.”
The study will involve the analysis of three wastewater samples collected over the course of one week, testing for the presence of 46 substances associated with possible abuse.
Similar analyses have been conducted by Statistics Canada in major cities, revealing distinct drug-use profiles unique to each location. This information equips local law enforcement. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and social service agencies to tailor their approach to the specific substances in use and address the associated social and health impacts.
The potential for regular data collection is immense, allowing for identifying trends, seasonal changes, and variances across different areas within the City of Cold Lake.
The proof-of-concept testing will wrap up early in 2024.