VIRGINIA KEY, FL (April 30, 2007) -- In the first study ever to evaluate urban sediment after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science have published their findings in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pointing to the need for rapid environmental assessments. The environment in New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed high levels of contamination as floodwaters receded from the city, and this new study, titled "Impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Microbial Landscape of the New Orleans Area" provides new insights into public health and human exposure to both inhaled and ingested pathogens from sewage-contaminated floodwaters induced by hurricanes.
Rosenstiel School researchers from its NSF/NIEHS Center for Oceans and Human Health, along with five other universities and two other NSF/NIEHS Centers for Oceans and Human Health, analyzed water and sediment samples they collected as floodwaters receded from New Orleans during the two months after the 2005 hurricanes. The scientists collected water and sediment samples from the interior canal and shoreline of New Orleans and the offshore waters of Lake Pontchartrain, which showed higher than normal bacteria and pathogen levels. The bacteria and pathogens reduced to low levels within a few weeks after flooding had completely subsided.
Our findings emphasize the importance of including environmental monitoring within disaster management plans, said Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Miami and co-author of the paper. A rapid assessment of conditions can protect emergency workers and residents from potential illnesses that could result from exposure.
The 2005 events were characterized by an unusually high volume and long duration of human exposure. The most contaminated area tested ne
Contact: Ivy F. Kupec
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science