Friday, September 7, 2018

Did Harvey make us sick? Still more questions than answers

The third time Rodney Blair began to wade into Harvey floodwaters to reach his ruined house in the days after the storm, he was stopped by law enforcement.
“Excuse me sir,” an officer warned, “I advise you to not enter the water without proper protection.”
From the Houston Chronicle

some of the early evidence is troubling.
New findings by Rice University researchers show the stagnant water inside some flooded homes carried indications of antibiotic-resistant bacteria up to 250 times higher than even the floodwater outside. The same markers for the bacteria were found in the sediment left behind weeks after the water receded.
The significance of the discovery is that such bacteria could lead to infections more difficult to treat, said Lauren Stadler, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice and lead investigator for the study.
“There is mounting evidence that these floodwaters, especially inside homes, present a real risk,” Stadler said last week.
Bacteria and more
Researchers trudged into the storm to capture samples as the rain fell last August and then for weeks afterward.
High levels of E. coli were found in the Buffalo and Brays bayous which ultimately spilled into neighborhoods.
In flooded homes it can be hard to isolate where contaminants come from. Sewage trapped in bathroom pipes, medicines in cabinets, cleaning supplies under sinks, and chemicals in garages all mix together with floodwater to form a toxic brew.
But the Houston region also poses another unique threat. Harvey’s flooding pried loose soil and chemicals from 13 Superfund sites and spread chemical seepage from the area’s vast oil and gas industry.

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