A Sea of Health and Environmental Hazards in Houston’s Floodwaters
A Sea of Health and Environmental Hazards in Houston’s Floodwaters.
Officials in Houston are just beginning to grapple with the health and environmental risks that lurk in the waters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, a stew of toxic chemicals, sewage, debris and waste that still floods much of the city.
Lead, arsenic and other toxic and carcinogenic elements may be leaching from some two dozen Superfund sites in the Houston area.
Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesman for the Houston Health Department, said the hazards of the water enveloping the city were self-evident.
But hundreds of thousands of people across the 38 Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey use private wells, according to an estimate by Louisiana State University researchers, and those people must fend for themselves.
“Well water is at risk for being contaminated,” Dr. Persse said, “and the well owner is really the one who is responsible.
In the City of Houston, we have folks that use well water but we strongly recommend against it — and this will sound awful — we don’t take responsibility for it.” Harris County, home to Houston, hosts more than two dozen current and former toxic waste sites designated under the federal Superfund program.
The sites contain what the Environmental Protection Agency calls legacy contamination: lead, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, benzene and other toxic and carcinogenic compounds from industrial activities many years ago.
“Houston’s had problems with their sewer system in the past.
“When it rains, the sewer pipes get infiltrated with storm water.