Arsenic contamination in New Orleans soil: Temporal changes associated with flooding
The flooding of New Orleans in late August and September 2005 caused widespread sediment deposition in the flooded areas of the city. Post-flood sampling by US EPA revealed that 37% of sediment samples exceeded Louisiana corrective screening guidelines for arsenic of 12mg/kg, but there was debate over whether this contamination was pre-existing, as almost no pre-flood soil sampling for arsenic had been done in New Orleans. In this study, archived soil samples collected in 1998-1999 were location-matched with 70 residential sites in New Orleans where post-flood arsenic concentrations were elevated. Those same locations were sampled again during the recovery period 18 months later. During the recovery period, sampling for arsenic was also done for the first time at school sites and playgrounds within the flooded zone. Every sample of sediment taken 1-10 months after the flood exceeded the arsenic concentration found in the matched pre-flood soils. The average difference between the two sampling periods was 19.67mg/kg (95% CI 16.63-22.71) with a range of 3.60-74.61mg/kg. At virtually all of these sites (97%), arsenic concentrations decreased substantially by 18 months into the recovery period when the average concentration of matched samples was 3.26mg/kg (95% CI 1.86-4.66). However, 21 (30%) of the samples taken during the recovery period still had higher concentrations of arsenic than the matched sample taken prior to the flooding. In addition, 33% of samples from schoolyards and 13% of samples from playgrounds had elevated arsenic concentrations above the screening guidelines during the recovery period. These findings suggest that the flooding resulted in the deposition of arsenic-contaminated sediments. Diminution of the quantity of sediment at many locations has significantly reduced overall soil arsenic concentrations, but some locations remain of concern for potential long-term soil contamination.
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