Water contamination could pose serious health issues

Water contamination could pose serious health issues

As the waters from Hurricane Florence recede, new health and environmental threats could emerge across Eastern Carolina.

At the moment, people are concerned with road closures and flooding. As the waters drain away, new problems will present themselves.

Two alligators have been spotted swimming around flooded portions of Vanceboro, and snakes are always an issue after major floods. Stagnant water will lead to a rise in the mosquitoes population. Dangerous mold spores can settle and grow in houses that have been flooded and cause a number of respiratory ailments.

But John Bell, the representative of the 10th District and the NC House Majority Leader, says there is a more dangerous threat to the community.

Rep. John Bell

Rep. John Bell

“It is very under-reported and people don’t want to talk about the number of cities and towns that have sewage spills,” Bell said. “It’s a very big problem. Anytime you have a sewage spill, you have unclean water that gets out into the community.”

In several small towns, waters from Hurricane Florence flooded over water treatment facilities. In some rural areas, septic tanks have been breached. There have been 20 confirmed flooded hog lagoons, with a possibility of up to 100 being compromised.

Serious illnesses, such as typhoid and cholera, can be traced to contact with contaminated water. Many types of bacteria could be in the water and can cause a variety of infections and illnesses.

“It’s very tempting to go out into them (floodwaters) to gather your things, but you need to be cautious,” Bell said. “People shouldn’t swim in the water that is in your communities. There is a lot of debris flowing around because we had lots of flood water. Some places have had over 30 inches of rain and you don’t know what is in the water. The amount of human and animal fecal and urine matter can be staggering.

Neuseway Nature Park drone photo by Cameron Bain

“This is a major health problem. Many areas have had sewage and contamination issues. That is a bigger problem that most people don’t realize. Many will blame what happened at the farms, but the bigger problem is what happened to those sewage facilities that carry human waste and everything else that we send through the toilet. Anytime you have a disaster like this, these are issues that are more important than a flooded highway. The health issues can last for months and can affect people, animals, and the general environment for a long, long time. And that damage is greater than any accidental spill from our farms over the last 30 years combined.”

Rep. Bell urges people to be cautious when coming into contact with water. Proper safety precautions are advised, including thoroughly washing any open cuts or scratches with antibacterial ointments or sanitizers. If you live in an area with possible water contamination, contact your local authorities.

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