"The problem is that these compounds are what is called 'bioaccumulative.' Once they get in the food chain, they accumulate you cannot synthesize them," Rifai said. "A lot of the impacts of those compounds are subtle. They might be neurologic; they might be developmental. They're the kinds of things that do not show up for quite a while."
The inclusion of new species in the advisories, Rifai said, has many implications, because commercial and recreational fishing is a $100-plus million industry annually. But, when her team was asked by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to do its own assessment of the state health department findings last year, the results were what Rifai expected.
"We told them that we thought the data was valid. We actually merged it with our data, and it was very consistent with what we see," she said. "We looked carefully at what was done, and, at the end of the day, I wasn't surprised."
While the industrial history of Houston is amazing, Rifai said, residents and officials are dealing with the repercussions of it now and will continue to for a long time, especially in coastal communities.
"You have to balance the protection of the resource with the need for development and growth," she said. "You also have to think about areas really vulnerable to these extreme events, like hurricanes."
She notes, however, that industrial partners have been critically important to her team's work.
"I'll tell you, industry in this area has come a long way. They really realize that they live in a community, ought to give back to the community and ought to work with the community. What's good for the water is going to be good for everyone around the water."
|Contact: Angela Hopp|
University of Houston