New York Times Profiles Dr. Neil Fitzgerald’s Hurricane Sandy Research
Hurricane Sandy Soil Toxin Study
In late December, The New York Times featured an interview with associate professor of chemistry, Neil Fitzgerald, on his citizen science research project, “SUDS: Send Us Your Dirt From Sandy.” Organized in collaboration with Vassar College, the project aims to collect and analyze samples of dirt, mud, and sand from areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy to determine the environmental impact of waterborne toxins from regional Superfund sites.
Much of the concern involves waterways and canals with a history of PCB contamination – a hazardous waste known to cause a variety of health problems including cancer in animals. Hurricane Sandy’s violent impact resulted in water levels increasing close to thirteen feet above normal and disturbed the layer of mud containing PCBs and other forms of toxic or harmful sludge.
Since the project launched in late November, over 60 samples have been submitted from homeowners, community gardeners, and concerned citizens from a variety of locations throughout the target region.
If tests reveal toxic hot spots, the research team hopes to enlist the support of the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a more in-depth investigation. For now, creating a greater level of understanding of how toxic sediment travels during a storm system will be helpful in developing disaster management plans for the future.
Written by Laura Zurowski