Texas A&M Scientist: Floodwater Tested from Hurricane Harvey Shows Dangerous Levels of Contaminants

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Floodwater samples from the Houston area showed E. coli levels that were 125 times higher than is considered safe for swimming, according to a test conducted at Texas A&M University.

Even walking through the floodwaters could lead to infections or other problems, concluded Dr. Terry Gentry, an associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University. The tested water also proved to be 15 times higher than acceptable levels for wading, said Gentry, who tested the water for a report that aired Thursday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“We saw elevated levels of E. coli,” Dr. Gentry told Good Morning America. “And this indicates the very likely presence of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and other types of organisms that could cause disease in some individuals.”

Gentry and a crew from the morning news program collected the samples earlier this week in Cypress.

Gentry brought the samples back to a laboratory in College Station for testing. It was one of a few water quality labs open in the area after the storm.

To see Good Morning America’s report, see the link here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/small-sample-texas-floodwater-coli-expert-49533953

“Researchers and staff from Texas A&M and other entities within the Texas A&M University System have stepped up to make sure Texans know about health concerns in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said. “We will continue to get Texans the information they need to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible.”

The results from the water tested in College Station were communicated to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist the agency in its effort to assess the impacts of Hurricane Harvey.

Another team from the Texas A&M University System will begin taking water samples from the affected coastal areas next week for a further assessment of the storm’s effects on the environment.

The Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research, or TIAER, at Tarleton State University in Stephenville will monitor the quality of waters and habitats in order to help ensure public safety and health, said Dr. Quenton Dokken, TIAER’s executive director.

Specifically, the TIAER team will measure hydrocarbon and bacterial contamination levels to assess overall water quality in flooded south Texas communities, and it stands ready to assist all state agencies responsible for protecting the health of Texans and the natural environment.

“As floodwaters 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.”

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.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.55 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 148,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $972 million in FY 2016 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Tim Eaton
Director, Media Relations
(979) 458-6018

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