Tulane team to study water pollution from Hurricane Ida

November 8, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A researcher at a private university in New Orleans is getting nearly $50,000 to study how pollution spread by Hurricane Ida’s floods has affected south Louisiana groundwater and water systems, the university said Monday.

Tulane University associate professor Samendra Sherchan said in an email that the National Science Foundation grant will let his team sample water from about 150 sites.

“This project is a time-sensitive and unique opportunity to collect perishable data and improve understanding of the extent of contamination in floodwaters from inland areas to groundwater,” he said in a news release.

Ida hit southeast Louisiana as a category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29, bringing catastrophic floods from storm surge and downpours to many rural areas.

Those floods could have spread dangerous microbes and chemicals to groundwater and wells, said Sherchan, who teaches environmental health sciences at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.


The team has begun collecting samples from water wells in heavily flooded areas including Houma, LaPlace and Slidell to determine potential sources of fecal pollution, heavy metals and other contaminants.

The scientists will use genetic tests to look at ways the storm may have affected the microbial community in groundwater, and will map chemical and microbial contamination to identify which households may be at risk.

Sherchan said Monday that owners of private wells can schedule a free test by emailing the research team at jalarcon@tulane.edu.

“People who have private wells are responsible for maintaining their water quality, and after extreme weather events, some might not be able to or know how to disinfect and recover so this project will address that too,” he said.

If wells test positive for chemical or microbial contamination, Sherchan and his team will explain what resources are available to them and how they should maintain wells after severe floods.