A team from the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research (TIAER) at Tarleton State University begins sampling next week along the Gulf Coast to assess Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the environment.
“While many of Harvey’s environmental impacts will take decades to mitigate, Texans along the coast can be assured that we’re doing what we do best—monitoring the quality of waters and habitats—to help ensure public safety and health,” said Dr. Quenton Dokken, TIAER’s executive director.
The Texas Legislature created TIAER in 1991 to address water quality along the North Bosque River. Data collected from the river’s watershed continues to play a vital role in developing water-quality models and testing throughout the nation and around the world. Today, TIAER’s research includes projects in 35 U.S. states and Canada as well as partnerships with such countries as China, Ecuador, Ethiopia and New Zealand.
The TIAER team will measure hydrocarbon and bacterial contamination levels to assess overall water quality in flooded south Texas communities and stands ready to assist all state agencies responsible for protecting the health of Texans and the natural environment.
Hurricanes and flooding are major contamination events, Dokken said.
“As flood waters wash down streets, through garages and kitchens, across thousands of acres of farmland and through industrial areas, an A-to-Z list of toxic chemicals is flushed into the environment,” he said. “In addition, tons of manure and raw sewage are incorporated into this rancid brew.”
Dokken said that while hydrocarbon sheens are visible on the surface of floodwaters, chemical analysis is required to detect the majority of toxins.
“Although not visible to the naked eye, these chemical, bacterial and viral cocktails are nonetheless toxic to critters living in the water and the people who come in contact with it,” he said. “Our team will carefully assess Harvey’s impact on Gulf Coast waters and habitats, and work closely with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas General Land Office to take care of Texans today and tomorrow.”