Public health and hurricanes

ar the Superdome contained high levels of sewage pathogens. Researchers pointed out monitoring efforts should focus on evaluating the impacts of sediments within the area since exposure to contaminated sediments, by inhaling or ingesting, could result in potential health risks. Efforts should include monitoring pathogens in addition to indicator microbes.

We know that hurricanes bring infectious disease, chemical contamination and death in their wake, said Don Rice, director of NSF's chemical oceanography program, which funded the research. Now we are making a concerted effort to study and understand the connections.

Sediment samples taken from the canal shoreline and from three homes showed elevated levels that could not be contributed solely to the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The source of elevated bacteria levels in the canals and sediments appears to be the chronic discharge of contaminated water from the interior portions of the city.

Poor water quality, present prior to the hurricanes, was a major concern in the region, and efforts are needed in the region to improve the sanitary infrastructure.

Improvements should focus on the storm water drainage system in the region and reducing sewage contamination of groundwater seepage, researchers noted. No evidence of a long-term algal bloom was observed in New Orleans as a result of Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.


Contact: Ivy F. Kupec
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

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