Hurricane Florence Presents Environmental Health Challenges for the Carolinas


Hurricane Florence caused widespread flooding and destruction throughout the Carolinas and parts of Virginia. Officials are still in the early stages of evaluating the full impact of the storm, but it’s clear from reports of coal ash spills, flooded hog waste lagoons, and the inundation of hazardous waste sites that there are, and will continue to be, serious environmental health concerns in the storm’s wake.

The Duke University Superfund Research Center is actively engaged in efforts to assess and respond to these concerns, and we will work with communities in the southeastern part of North Carolina to understand and mitigate risks of exposure to contaminants that may have migrated from hazardous waste sites damaged by the storm and subsequent flooding.

A team of scientists coordinated by Elena Craft, a former Duke Superfund trainee and current Environmental Health Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, 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. Duke Superfund Investigator Lee Ferguson and DUSRC Analytical Chemistry Core Manager Abigail Joyce joined the team in the field, along with researchers from the Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center.

The Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores will be assisting researchers by connecting them with local groups in the Wilmington area, facilitating conversations about community needs, and sharing and translating research on environmental health impacts to a variety of stakeholders throughout the response and recovery process. Research Translation Core staffer Bryan Luukinen appears on the TV show Capital Tonight this evening (Thursday, September 20) to discuss the Center’s role in assessing and mitigating health risks associated with long-term exposure to environmental contaminants.

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.