LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

LSUHealthNO Collaboration Working to Improve Drinking Water Safety

Hurricane Irma

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Leslie Capo

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Adrienne Katner, DEnv, Assistant Research Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, is part of a team working to help homeowners in Texas and Florida whose drinking water comes from wells that may have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Led by Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards, the team also includes faculty at Texas A & M’s AgriLife Extension Service and University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. With a $200,000 RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation, teams in the affected areas will distribute educational training and water sampling kits that will be tested to determine whether water from privately owned wells is safe to drink. Contamination from storm surge and flooding associated with hurricanes can cause serious health problems.

“When a well is submerged, anything in the floodwater, including bacteria, sewerage or toxic chemicals can get into the well,” notes Dr. Katner. “This funding will allow us to build upon the research on risk communication strategies we began last year after the catastrophic flooding in Louisiana.”

The funding will also support the assessment of owner resource and information needs. “Since private wells are not regulated, many private well owners don’t know where to get information about testing and decontamination,” says Katner.

Hurricane Harvey flooding
The grant’s scope of work also includes evaluating treatment methods including shock chlorination procedures and monitoring well recovery.

Katner and her Virginia Tech collaborators also received a $600,000 Healthy Homes Technical Study grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to study both short- and long-term effectiveness of common point-of-use water filters in removing lead from drinking water in high-risk systems.

“Working with North Carolina state officials, Louisiana non-profits and vulnerable rural communities in both states, we will also evaluate community risk perceptions, identify outreach needs and develop evidence-based exposure reduction guidelines,” says Katner.