Thursday, August 31, 2017

EPA and Tex. Commission on Environmental Quality Release Statement on Harvey Floodwater Hazards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released the following statement today, in regards to the water quality of flood-impacted areas from Hurricane Harvey:
EPA and TCEQ are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers occur during major flood events. The agencies actively work to monitor those facilities that have reported spills, as well as conducting outreach and providing technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas.
“Floodwaters may contain many hazards, including bacteria and other disease agents. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters. These precautions include heeding all warnings from local and state authorities regarding boil water notices, swimming advisories, or other safety advisories. In addition to the drowning hazards of wading, swimming, or driving in swift floodwaters, these waters can carry large objects that are not always readily visible that can cause injuries to those in the water. Other potential hazards include downed power lines and possible injuries inflicted by animals displaced by the floodwaters.
“Federal and state mobile command is currently about 200 people, who are working elbow-to-elbow, starting in Corpus Christi and moving east with primary responsibility of the health and safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. As we continue to respond to this natural disaster and its devastating effects on the people of Texas, the biggest threat to public health at this time is ensuring they have access to safe drinking water and ensuring waste water systems are being monitored, tested for safety and managed appropriately.”
U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West, Wikimedia Commons Images.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Harmful algal blooms in Gulf of Mexico heighten environmental concern post BP spill

Harmful algal blooms can suck the oxygen out of the water column and mean certain death for fish, marine animals and birds, and cause toxic effects for people and local economies.
NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services is providing routine HAB forecasts to help members of the public make informed decisions when a bloom is temporarily affecting their area. The forecasts also aid people responsible for responding to bloom impacts, according to NOAA's website.
Gulf of Mexico HAB Forecast - CO-OPS issues forecasts twice a week for the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico after confirmation of a HAB of the red tide species, Karenia brevis, and once weekly during the inactive bloom season. Red tide is the name for algal bloom when it is caused by a few species of dinoflagellates, a kind of aggressive plankton, and the bloom takes on a reddish color.
A bloom of some dinoflagellates can result in a discoloration of the water column (red tide), which can cause shellfish poisoning if humans consume contaminated shellfish. Some dinoflagellates also exhibit bioluminescence—primarily emitting blue-green light.
Currently, areas of the Gulf such as Padre Island in South Texas have experienced red tide, which can affect breathing quality for beach combers and kill marine life in the area.
As seen in this photo, algal blooms can contribute to what is called a dead zone, an area of hypoxia. Some dead zones occur naturally, but more and more this lack of oxygen stems from human causes - chemical runoff, for example, and the contribution to oxygen-depleting algal bloom.
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons Images, NOAA,