Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Flood waters pose a risk to rescuers

This evening there was an interesting query from CG HQ down the chain of command. Somebody at HQ wanted to know if the Coast Guard in New Orleans was measuring the quality of the flood waters in New Orleans.

I'm thinking like they have time.

When I arrived home, I surfed across this article about the dangers of the flood waters:

Water samples collected from residential areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans revealed dangerously high levels of E. coli, coliform, and lead.

These levels were 10 times greater than the safety limit, said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The water, the agencies warned, could pose a risk through both ingestion and skin contact, particularly through open cuts or wounds.

"Human contact with the flood water should be avoided as much as possible," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said at a press conference here. "No one should drink the flood water, especially children."

The warning was directed not only at residents who have not yet evacuated, but also rescue and relief workers. CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., advised relief workers to be current on tetanus shots and wear protective clothing at all times.
The answer to HQ's question was "No, they're not checking water quality."

The answer to your question is "Yes, all the Coasties are getting tetanus shots (along with some others, I think including hepatitis B) and are wearing PPE. And I hope the PPE is effective.

I have a shipmate -- I think I have written about this earlier here in Musings -- who deployed to New York City following 9/11. During that deployment, this Coastie ended up going into the Hudson, either to push the boat off when it ran aground or to help repair the lower unit... I'm not sure why the Coastie ended up in the water, but they did, and it was in the line of duty.

So anyway, several months after this incident the Coastie came down with some sort of a disease. I'm not exactly sure what it is; it sounds sort of like a parasite, but the bottom line is that it's evidently incurable and may likely lead to death. And, the Coast Guard is about to boot them out of the service because they are no longer medically fit.

That just sucks, if you ask me.

I fear that some who deploy to NoLa will find themselves in the same boat.

And if you think this is unusual, I have another shipmate who, while serving on CG strike team, was exposed to a powerful chemical when the exposure suit ripped. This Coastie was helping the EPA at a superfund site and was in a house, became startled by a rat, and ended up ripping the suit on a sharp edge. And has spent more time than one can count in hospitals as a result. It happens too often.

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