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Hurricane Sandy May Cause Sewage Contamination after Floods

EMSL Analytical has developed advanced testing methods to determine the presence of sewage contamination.


Although Hurricane Sandy has officially passed, many on the East Coast continue to feel the effects. Every East Coast state, from North Carolina to Massachusetts and as far in land as Michigan, experienced flooding, and an estimated eight million were without power as of Tuesday.

In areas where extreme flooding occurs, sewage contamination usually follows. Environmental sewage contamination not only affect recreational water but drinking water and food supplies as well.
“After a flood, many are concerned about health risks associated with sewage contamination,” states Diane Miskowski, Business Development Manager at EMSL Analytical. “EMSL Analytical has developed three testing methods to determine the presence of fecal or sewage contamination: Total Bacteroides, Human Bacteriodes, and Human Polyomavirus"

Total Bacteroides encompasses animal (mammalian) and human sources, while Human Bacteroides and Human Polyomavirus are for human sources only. The following are some quick guidelines on how to choose between the tests: 

1) If the concern is contamination from surface water, river, or storm water after a flood, Total Bacteroides is the best choice. Runoff from streets (dog manure), manure-contaminated runoff from agricultural operations, and sanitary wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) overflows are a concern. Flooding increases the risk of human disease caused by both animal and human sources of contamination, so a test that detects both is needed. 

2) If the concern is a toilet overflow or a backup/ overflow from a sanitary sewer (which handles only human discharges), then Human Bacteroides or Human Poyomavirus are the best choices. Using either of these tests, background contamination by animal Bacteroides from pets, re-used mops, soles of shoes, etc. is eliminated. 

3) If the concern is the contamination from the backup or overflow of a combined sewer discharge, which contains both storm water and sanitary (human) discharges, then Total Bacteroides is the best choice. 

4) If identification of the source of fecal contamination from groundwater under the influence of surface water is needed, the best choice is using both Total and Human Bacteroides. The difference in the results represents the amount contributed by all animal sources (e.g. farming operations). Using Total and Human Bacteroides, you will be able to determine what percentage of the contamination is from human and farming-related sources. 

For more information on EMSL’s testing services, please contact EMSL at (800) 220-3675 ext 2528, visit, or email .

[b]About EMSL Analytical, Inc.[/b]
EMSL Analytical is the nation’s leading testing laboratory with over 30 locations throughout the United States and Canada. We are a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in consumer product, environmental, industrial hygiene, indoor air quality, microbiology, radon, food, and materials testing services to professionals and the general public. Please visit our website for a complete listing of accreditations from leading organizations, as well as state and federal regulating bodies.



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