The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has resulted in most of the drinking water sources to be contaminated throughout the region. According to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, 1 million pounds of toxic chemicals have leaked into the water supply in the Houston Texas area.
Harvey’s deluge of wind and water have released thousands of tons of harmful substances from local petrochemical plants operated by ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and others. Breaches at numerous waste treatment plants have contaminated floodwaters with bacteria and toxins. Dozens of Superfund sites and an unknown numbers of submerged septic tanks have contaminated the water.
Bacteria, viruses, metals and other toxic pollutants have leached into the floodwaters from the refineries and chemical plants in the area. Toxins such as benzene, hexane, sulfur dioxide, butadiene and xylene have poisoned Houston residents water.
The air quality and water toxicity make exposure unsafe to drink or bath with the water. According to health experts. Communities living near plants have been exposed to dangerous levels of toxic fumes and contaminated water.
These released toxic chemicals can cause an array of health problems including heightened cancer risk, gastrointestinal ailments, nausea and muscle weakness through prolonged exposure. Several air quality monitors were rendered inoperable by Hurricane Harvey. Residents are now vulnerable to emissions containing carcinogens and neurotoxins.
Bryan Parras lives in the East End area of Houston where the petrochemical plants are located. Parras complains of respiratory problems in the wake of the hurricane. “You start to get headaches, your eyes start itching, your throat gets scratchy.” said Parras.
Houston has not met national air quality standards since the Clean Air Act was introduced in 1970. Given the Trump Administration's assault on the EPA and many other environmental protections. The sudden surge in pollution has caused deep concern among public health advocates here in Texas.
A growing number of concerned citizens are calling for big policy changes to reduce flood damage from future disasters. The air and water is unsafe and potentially life threatening. The extent of the contamination is yet known. Residents need to take precautions.
Whenever water is contaminated it is critical to find safe water or disinfect water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.
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