Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Houston Parks After Hurricane Harvey. Academic Article uri icon


  • Unprecedented inland precipitation and catastrophic flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey potentially redistributed contaminants from industrial sites and transportation infrastructure to recreational areas that make up networks of green infrastructure, creeks, and waterways used for flood control throughout the Greater Houston Area. Sediment samples were collected in parks located near the Buffalo Bayou watershed 1 week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall and again 7 weeks later. Total concentrations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 16 priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were measured in each sample at both time points. Diagnostic ratios were calculated to improve understanding of potential sources of PAHs after flooding. Diagnostic ratios suggest vehicular traffic to be a potential source for PAHs in parks. Although the concentrations of PAHs in all samples were below EPA actionable levels, given that no background values were available for comparison, it is difficult to quantify the impact flooding from Hurricane Harvey had on PAH concentrations in Houston parks. However, given the high frequency of flooding in Houston, and the concentration of industrial facilities and transportation infrastructure adjacent to recreation areas, these data demonstrate that PAHs were still present after unprecedented flooding. This study may also serve as a baseline for future efforts to understand the environmental health impacts of disasters.

published proceedings

  • Environ Justice

author list (cited authors)

  • Casillas, G. A., Johnson, N. M., Chiu, W. A., Ramirez, J., McDonald, T. J., & Horney, J. A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Casillas, Gaston A||Johnson, Natalie M||Chiu, Weihsueh A||Ramirez, Juan||McDonald, Thomas J||Horney, Jennifer A

publication date

  • January 2021