Duke Superfund Begins Floodwater Testing in Wake of Hurricane Florence

Lee Ferguson interviewed about floodwater sampling and potential environmental health concerns. Credit: newsy


On September 19th, Principal Investigator Lee Ferguson and Analytical Chemistry Core Manager Abigail Joyce, collected floodwater samples along the Neuse River and some of its tributaries. The Analytical Chemistry Core will conduct a ‘non-target analysis’ on the samples, allowing them to test for the presence of multiple chemicals and quantify them without the need to know what they’re looking for ahead of time. Non-target analysis is a vital tool for assessing environmental health risks after flooding events that have many potential sources of contamination. 

Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Joyce join a collaborative of scientists coordinated by Elena Craft, Environmental Health Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund that have been on the coast this week taking environmental samples of floodwaters, air, soil, and sediment in an attempt to characterize the contaminants that may be present, their concentrations, and their likely sources. Researchers from the Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center are also on site, and were involved in similar work following Hurricane Harvey last year. The group will also gather floodwater samples from the Cape Fear and Lumber river basins for additional non-targeted analysis. 

Abigail Joyce, Analytical Chemistry Core Manager

After disasters, it is critical for scientists to collaborate and share resources in order to maximize opportunities to shed light on pressing environmental health concerns and inform decision makers and local residents on ways to minimize or prevent health risks. 

Please feel free to get in touch with the Research Translation Core and Community Engagement Core by emailing superfund@duke.edu if you have concerns about chemical contaminants that may have been released as a result of the hurricane, and we will try to connect you with the resources you need.

Stay tuned for additional details on our involvement in Hurricane Florence response. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.