The aftermath of Sandy may be around long after the rubble has been cleared and power has returned. The storm’s torrents may have washed high levels of hazardous pollutants from cities and farms into waterways. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is currently sampling the waters in areas affected by the massive storm to measure pesticide pollution, E. coli contamination, nutrient levels, and sediment.
“We tend to think of events like Sandy in terms of the ephemeral effect of the wind, rain, waves, and even snow as it swept through our communities, but in fact this superstorm can have a longer-term effect in the large pulse of sediment and associated pollutants swept into our waterways,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt in a press release.
“Significant high water events are important to document, because a storm event like this can flush large quantities of nutrients, pesticides, and sediment into rivers,” said Charles Crawford, coordinator of the sampling effort, in a press release.
USGS crews are gathering samples from the Delaware and Raritan Rivers in New Jersey, near the Chesapeake Bay in Pennsylvania, the Potomac River in Maryland and various sites in Washington, D.C. Parts of northern Virginia are also being studied.
Understanding how Sandy has affected the waterways of the East Coast will help scientists understand the sources of water contamination and be better prepared for toxic algal blooms resulting from excessive nutrients.
“It is particularly important to quantify the input of this one unusual event before concluding that certain efforts to reduce pollutant run-off from year to year have or have not been effective,” said McNutt.
“When looking at long-term water quality trends and year-to-year variation, this hurricane could be a defining event for the past few decades, and it’s important that USGS captures a complete picture of what happens,” said Crawford.
IMAGE: Aerial views of the damage caused by
Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast taken during a search and rescue
mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National
Guard, Oct. 30, 2012 (Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard)