Hurricane season is upon us, and we know that this time of extreme winds, heavy rainfall and massive flooding can be devastating. Hurricanes destroy infrastructure and homes as well as create dangerous situations for those living there. In addition to these effects, there are some hidden issues that might not surface until the rains and wind stop. One of these issues is the lack of clean and safe water.
Three Effects of Hurricanes
There are a few ways that hurricanes affect freshwater supplies. First, we need to think of the water that is being pulled into the hurricane. As hurricanes churn over the ocean, they can bring rain that contains chemicals and undrinkable salt water. This rain then falls in rural areas where fertilizers and pesticides can quickly contaminate private wells.
In the urban areas, city fresh water sources can also become contaminated, making the water not safe to use or drink. This contamination is a result of the heavy rains and flooding. As the flood waters move, they bring with them enormous amounts of contaminants like chemicals, sewage, and other debris. Flooding waters can breach water reservoirs causing contamination that water treatment systems cannot keep up with. These waters will also contaminate surrounding lakes, streams and well water supply, meaning there is potential for overgrowth of bacteria.
In addition to the floods, high winds can result in falling trees and other infrastructure damage. This can cause water pipes to be broken, allowing for the water to be exposed to contaminants. The broken pipes will then take the contaminated water directly into water mains and lines into individual homes. This contaminated water poses great health risks to communities as it can carry diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, e. Coli and dysentery. The repairs on the water systems can be very costly and the contamination issues can last for years to come.
Historic Water Quality After Hurricanes
In 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy, more than 690 wastewater and drinking water utilities in 11 states were compromised. Within a few days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that more than 1,220 drinking water systems and more than 200 wastewater treatment facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had been affected. This caused a large outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases triggered by e. Coli due to the lack of safe water.
How to Be Prepared
If you find yourself in the aftermath of a hurricane, avoid using your well water or tap water. It is important to get your water tested to ensure you are drinking safe water. If you are unsure of the safety of your water, be sure to boil the water or use a filter that will remove the contaminants. Check out Business Connect, one of our partners, to learn more about various water filtration and treatment options. Stay safe!