(July 30, 2018) -- Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented rain event that delivered five consistent days of flooding and storms to Texas last August. Now, research from UTSA Assistant Professor Vikram Kapoor in civil and environmental engineering has substantiated that the storm caused high levels of fecal contamination to be introduced into waterways draining into the Gulf of Mexico and impairing surface water quality.
Kapoor’s research assessed microbial contaminants in southeast and southcentral Texas waterways following Hurricane Harvey. His work was supported by a Rapid Response Research grant from the National Science Foundation.
“The research we conducted in the Guadalupe River after Hurricane Harvey substantiates that the large number of sewage overflows and storm-water runoff that occurred during Hurricane Harvey flooding introduced high levels of fecal bacteria into environmental waters.”
After 800 wastewater treatment plants reported spills from flooding and more than two million pounds of contaminants were released into the environment, the study reports that the sewage overflows posed a risk to human and environmental health via waterborne disease outbreaks, deterioration of recreational and drinking water quality and the degradation of aquatic ecology. The report further confirms how hurricanes and large storms play a significant role in the transport of water contaminants across environmental waters.
Kapoor selected the Guadalupe River because it is an important drinking water source for several cities and is used in part for recreational activities. The river runs from Kerr County, Texas to the San Antonio Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. Excessive rainfall from Hurricane Harvey resulted in major flooding over the Guadalupe River in Victoria, Texas. The river crested at 32 feet, around 10 feet above flood stage.
Notably, all initial water samples collected from the flooded regions of the Guadalupe River by Kapoor and his students contained E. coli and enterococci concentrations above the regulatory level for contact recreational waters. The UTSA study suggested future studies are needed to explore relationships between human health and human-associated fecal marker levels in recreational waters impacted by sewage, treated effluents and human feces. The findings of this initial study will serve as the baseline information for follow-on studies to monitor existing and emerging public health risks to residents of Texas and potential long-term environmental impacts on the water resources in the impacted regions.
During Spring Break 2018, officials published alerts concerning fecal matter at some Texas beaches. While Kapoor says it’s too early to tell if those beaches were impacted as a result of Hurricane Harvey, he notes that he and his students observed elevated levels of fecal bacteria at flooded sites even two to three months after Harvey.
The UTSA environmental engineering professor is hopeful that his research on the short and long-term effects of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding will lead to the development of a predictive framework to assess wastewater contamination following severe flooding.
“We are conducting research at UTSA on the mobilization of microbial contaminants and the length of time they persist in affected areas,” he said. “The results will improve how scientists evaluate the human health impacts of contaminants mobilized and deposited by floodwaters.”
UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top five young universities, according to Times Higher Education.
Learn more about Civil and Environmental Engineering degree programs offered by the UTSA College of Engineering.
The events are a collaborative effort between student organizations, student led-groups, and campus departments.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
UTSA is a designated early voting site for the May 4 Joint, General and Special Election. Any registered Bexar County voter can skip the lines and cast a ballot at UTSA from Monday, April 22 to Tuesday, April 30.H-E-B Student Union (HSU 1.002), Main Campus
In this UTSA 50th anniversary speaker series, Roger Enriquez, UTSA associate professor of criminal justice, explores how immigration past and present helps us understand its future.Casa Hernán, 411 Cevallos St., San Antonio
Discussion will explore the new Master of Arts in Global Affairs offered through the Department of Political Science and Geography at UTSA. Guest speakers will include representatives from local and federal government, military, and civil society.H-E-B Student Union Travis Room (HSU 2.202), Main Campus
An evening of fine food and drink inspired by UTSA’s renowned Mexican Cookbook Collection. Proceeds from the event will support UTSA’s Mexican Cookbook Collection.Hotel Emma, 136 E Grayson St., San Antonio
Grab a friend and sign up to bowl with fellow Roadrunners and raise money for scholarships.University Bowl, 12332 I-10 #10, San Antonio
The UTSA Department of Art and Art History present the work of emerging artists who are graduating from UTSA. Work ranges from traditional methods and materials, interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.Arts Building, Main Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
UTSA's first spring Commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m., May 18 and honors graduates from the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.