If Things Weren’t Already Bad Enough, Houston Is About to Face a Public Health Nightmare

Jessica Firger | Mother Jones | August 30, 2017

Entire neighborhoods have become contaminated and potentially toxic rivers.

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

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...