Sewage, fecal bacteria in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters – CNN

Austin-based Jennifer Walker, the water resources program manager at Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, took time away from putting together evacuee kits with her sister to speak about what’s to come.
“Once the search and rescue is over, once they’ve explored the area and the floodwaters have receded, one of the things we actually really need to do is go out and figure out what we’re dealing with,” said Walker.
This includes thinking of all the different possibilities for “these chemicals and noxious things that are in pockets all over the Texas coast,” she said. “Where they went and where they could possibly land. We want to make sure our communities and our children are going to be safe.”
In parts of the city where there’s a higher concentration of chemical plants and refineries, there’s “obviously” a higher chance of contamination, said Walker. “But there are pipelines and conduits to move these substances all over Texas, frankly, but definitely on the Gulf Coast.”
“The obvious places to look would be around these chemical plants and the refineries,” said Walker. “But also the places where they use these chemicals. Paint and body shops, definitely, print shops, gas stations — they have tanks of gasoline underground, huge tanks of it — we always hear about dry cleaners, of course,” said Walker.
“Those kinds of businesses are all over the place,” said Walker, who noted that they also “have stringent rules in place for how they deal with and contain their chemicals — but this is a highly unusual situation.”
“My own father owns an auto repair place,” she said, adding that his business had containment systems, such as a retaining wall built around the containers holding antifreeze and other chemicals around it.
While there are different kinds of controls in place, “you also don’t expect 50 inches of rain and massive flooding,” said Walker.

What remains behind

Natural processes — including sunlight, oxygen and soil — will break some of the harmful organisms down, but testing is still needed.
“We need to know what we’re dealing with so we can know this stuff is going to break down in a month,” said Walker. “This stuff is going to be here for a long time and we need to put some barricades around it.”
“A lot of this is going to wash out into Galveston Bay and into our bays and estuaries where there’s incredible commercial and recreational fishery,” she said. “It’s not just people. There’s going to be a lot of wildlife impacted by this when all this stuff sweeps out into our bays and into Mexico.”
Sierra Club created a map to catalog a lot of the potential sources, said Walker. “That was us trying to wrap our arms around this problem and also trying to get this information to the public.”
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“I hope that we’re able to watch it and see what happens and be proactive and get some different testing done and see what we’re dealing with,” said Walker. “We don’t want to find out 10 years later that there is a problem and there was something we could have done.”

Source: Sewage, fecal bacteria in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters – CNN

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