Katrina Waters May Have Been Safer Than Thought

Study finds hurricane floodwaters in some regions less toxic than feared

FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The floodwaters that devastated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina may not have been as toxic as feared, according to a Louisiana State University study in the Oct. 11 online issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

John H. Pardue, Ph.D., of LSU, and colleagues tested 38 floodwater samples, mainly from the part of New Orleans known as the "East Bank," five to nine days after the August 29 hurricane and flood. They also tested water pumped out of the city into Lake Pontchartrain when dewatering operations were launched after the storm.

The researchers found that in the weeks after the storm, the floodwater was brackish, but had "very low concentrations of volatile and semi-volatile organic pollutants." Fecal coliform bacteria were high in surface floodwater, but typical of local stormwater runoff.

Lead, arsenic and sometimes chromium exceeded drinking water standards, but except for some lead levels, were "typical of stormwater," the researchers found. Instead of high pollution levels, "what distinguishes Hurricane Katrina floodwater is the large volume and the human exposure to these pollutants that accompanied the flood," the authors write.

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Clare Kittredge

Clare Kittredge

Updated on February 10, 2006

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