(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.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.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.