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ASU, Tempe testing for opioids in city’s sewage system

(Photo via Pixabay)

PHOENIX — City of Tempe officials have partnered with Arizona State University to test for opioid traces in the city’s sewage system.

ASU environmental engineering professor Rolf Halden believes the research could help save lives.

“We feel like this is critical information to help combat the opioid epidemic in Tempe and in the United States,” he said.

The process was compared to a urine test or stool sample at a doctor’s office.

Tempe, ASU doctoral students and staff have used the wastewater that flows under the surface of the streets to get a sense of the drug use behavior in Tempe.

The slogan: “Sewage doesn’t lie.”

“If we ask the citizens about their consumption patterns of drugs, we may get one answer, but when we analyze the sewage of the city you may get a different answer,” Halden said.

The samples taken from sewage cannot be linked to individuals because the lines carry waste from thousands of people.

However, the anonymity of the process and detected drug types and quantities deliver results that are more reliable than personal surveys or other methods.

The City of Tempe believes pairing the data from the wastewater program with the opioid map will help pinpoint where to send necessary resources to help people overcome addiction.

“We never know who contributed the sample, but what we sure can tell is which kinds of drugs are being consumed in the city and whether the concentration of drugs goes up or down,” Halden said.

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