November 2020 Spotlight

PROTECT Study shows increased levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water as a result of Hurricanes Maria & Irma

In a recent study evaluating the degradation of drinking water quality after Hurricanes Maria & Irma, PROTECT researchers found that strong winds and flooding caused increased levels of metals and organic micropollutants contamination in drinking water. Drinking water quality degradation in municipal and private well water systems arises due to impaired regional water cycles and/or damaged water treatment systems. Damage on the water treatment systems in Puerto Rico was caused by strong winds and flooding as a result of these Hurricanes, which can potentially cause long-term adverse health consequences within effected communities. Former PROTECT trainee Yishan Lin explains, “clean drinking water is critical to waterborne disease control and public health protection, yet is vulnerable to extreme environmental events such as hurricanes. Environmental pollution in Puerto Rico was extensive even prior to the 2017 Hurricanes, with over 200 hazardous waste sites including 18 active Superfund sites primarily contaminated by pesticides, chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs), and heavy metals. Various mixture of toxic substances can be released into waters sources due to flooding which may inadvertently be introduced into drinking water supplies.”

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