Water Contamination a Concern After Hurricane Harvey
Water Contamination a Concern After Hurricane Harvey.
The Environmental Protection Agency is prioritizing search and rescue for those who were stranded by the storm, but federal and state environmental agencies in the Houston and Galveston areas may soon face contaminated drinking water and flooded wastewater plants.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told Bloomberg BNA the agency would start removing debris once floodwaters recede.
Utility-owned facilities that remove contaminants from drinking water may be unusable if they’re inundated with floodwaters, according to Kevin Morley, a federal relations manager with the American Water Works Association who specializes in emergency preparedness.
But even if these facilities aren’t inundated, Morley told Bloomberg BNA, they may not have the power needed to run their pumps or an ability to get fuel for their generators.
Serious health problems can arise when a water utility loses power and its backup generators are damaged, according to Lara Zent, head of the Texas Rural Water Association.
Wastewater Backups Alan Roberson, head of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, said Texas’ drinking water treatment facilities may fare relatively well because these types of facilities are usually built on higher ground.
Morley said wastewater plants are designed with a bypass that allows water to flow directly through them during big storms that overwhelm their capacity.
Morley said Texas water officials will be able to rely on help from utilities in neighboring areas thanks to a program called the Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or WARN.
Additionally, EPA officials have been sent to Texas at the request of the state and are helping out in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s drinking water phone bank, according to EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman.