Evaluation of post-Katrina flooded soils for contaminants and toxicity to the soil invertebrates Eisenia fetida and Caenorhabditis elegans

S. M. Harmon, D. E. Wyatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


This research evaluated soil samples from a New Orleans neighborhood in the Chalmette, Saint Bernard Parish, that had been inundated by flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina. The goal was to determine if ecological risks persisted from flood waters that had come in contact with hazardous surface chemicals before inundating this low-lying neighborhood for a prolonged period. Research objectives were to establish the presence or absence of volatile organic and heavy metal contaminants, and then asses the toxicity of this soil to Eisenia fetida in a soil exposure assay and Caenorhabditis elegans in a simulated porewater exposure assay. Soil analysis revealed detectable levels of metals and organics in the surface soil at each location. No contaminant was detected in concentrations above human health screening values. Chromium and mercury were detected at levels in excess of typical ecological risk values. Soil extracts revealed concentrations of nitrate, sulfate, and chloride above those from an unflooded background sample. Toxicity testing resulted in no acute effects to either test species, but did show bioaccumulation of arsenic, cadmium, and lead in E. fetida exposed to several samples. The combination of mercury and sulfate provide the potential for mercury methylation should flooding and prolonged inundation occur again.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1857-1864
Number of pages8
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2008



  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Eisenia fetida
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • New Orleans
  • Soil toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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