A long-term environmental research project being conducted at the University of Houston may offer important information about the effects of Hurricane Ike on pollution levels and help regulators determine whether existing fish-consumption advisories remain appropriate.
With this year's storm season under way, the UH engineering team's project is entering a new phase as participants collect and analyze fresh samples from Galveston Bay and related waterways.
Cullen College of Engineering professor Hanadi Rifai, who has studied pollution in Houston-area bodies of water in partnership with both state and federal authorities since 2001, is leading the team.
"Our work with the Galveston Bay system started in the early '90s with funding from the EPA Galveston Bay National Estuary Program," said Rifai, whose team helped write the first "State of the Bay" report identifying the environmental challenges facing the estuary.
"We have since focused on POPs, or persistent organic pollutants, which include dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. We have a unique opportunity this year to study the effect of Hurricane Ike on these pollutants, particularly in the water and sediment of the estuary, so we are gathering a one-of-its-kind data set for the 'after' condition that we can compare to our pre-Ike 2008 data set," Rifai said. "The results will be enlightening from an environmental impact perspective of hurricanes on natural resources such as Galveston Bay."
As part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Total Maximum Daily Load Program, the team has been creating sophisticated models to help determine how much pollution a body of water is taking in and where that pollution is coming from. The team has upwards of 50 monitoring sites, Rifai said, and it looks for pollutants in sediment, water and tissue.
"The EPA has asked the states to come up with water bodies that do not meet Clean Water Act standards and wi
|Contact: Angela Hopp|
University of Houston