Houston Faces a Public Health Nightmare

Entire neighborhoods are now toxic rivers

(JESSICA FIRGER, NEWSWEEK)

In the coming weeks and even months, residents of Houston and other parts of southern Texas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey will be faced with the public health disasters that can result from dirty floodwater and landslides.

The disaster has ostensibly turned the city into a sprawling, pathogen-infested swamp.

RELATED: Houston EMS Director: Public Health Disaster ‘Rapidly Evolving’

Up to 25 inches of rain have already accumulated in two days. Rains are expected to continue until Wednesday night, and by the end, Harvey will have dumped 40 to 50 inches on the metropolitan area. Heavy precipitation is turning entire neighborhoods into contaminated and potentially toxic rivers.

For many of the city’s residents, contact with floodwater is unavoidable, putting them at risk for diarrhea-causing bacterial infections, Legionnaires’ disease, and mosquito-borne viruses.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, says officials are already making efforts to address the emerging public health nightmare. State and local officials recommend that people avoid drinking tap water, as health officials always do after a hurricane.

But in the case of Harvey, abstaining from the public utility is likely to be crucial.

Officials on Monday drained two reservoirs that are responsible for at least part of the city’s water supply in order to prevent subsequent infrastructure problems.

On Tuesday, officials issued additional warnings that the reservoirs are now uncontrollably spilling over and the levees at Columbia Lakes are ruptured. This means that drinking water has now come into contact with dirty floodwater.

This leaves many, if not most, Houston residents without a potable water supply. Drinking water is now a precious commodity. There are already reports that Texas merchants are price-gouging bottled water, and in some instances a case of water is selling for as much as $99. READ THE FULL STORY AT NEWSWEEK.

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