FARGO — North Dakota State University researchers are getting the green light to test wastewater for COVID-19 in cities across North Dakota.

The program has already been testing the water around Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Williston, but now they're planning on expanding to 25 smaller communities across the state.

Researchers recently got CARES Act funding, which will cover the testing for the next three months.

Wei Lin, a civil and environmental engineering professor at NDSU, said this will provide a more efficient way for these smaller communities to test for the virus.

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"In the widespread population (of small towns), it's very difficult to test small towns regularly and clinically," he said.

John McEvoy, a microbiological sciences professor at the university, said he's proud the project has gotten this far, this fast.

"By expanding to these other communities across the state, the smaller communities, we can really see how useful this is for detecting when the virus increases or decreases," he said.

Along with small towns, researchers will also test wastewater at the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck.