“Pumping the floodwater out of New Orleans is the most pressing environmental issue facing the city right now,” says Hsin-Neng Hsieh, PhD, PE, professor of civil and environmental engineering at NJIT. “There is just too much water and engineers can’t use existing waste treatment technologies until the water recedes.
Hsieh is a waste-water management expert whose current research includes analyzing the low-cost treatment of municipal wastewater; treatment of industrial sludge and the impact of combined sewer overflow on water quality.
Hsieh can be reached at 732-257-5665 (home) or 973-596-5859 (office).
Hsieh, who has not been on site but has worked on other emergencies and has been following the flooding closely, says the results of the water samples taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Saturday won’t be released until later this week. Until then water experts can only speculate on the proper way to treat the putrid water.
Other reports said the toxic waste from hundreds of small manufacturers and other businesses using chemicals or fuels could have leaked chemicals and oils into the floodwater. But again, officials do not have a list of such businesses and aren’t sure if leaks actually occurred, says Hsieh.
Hsieh’s research on combined sewer overflow relates to older cities, whose pipes handle both storm water and residential wastewater. The two kinds of water eventually discharge from the pipes and into estuaries, streams and rivers. When the combined pipe system was designed, Hsieh says, engineers assumed it was safe. But current engineers no longer assume that: Hsieh is thus studying the effect of a combined pipe system on water quality and drinking water. He received his bachelor’s degree from Cheng-Kung University, Taiwan, his master’s degree from the University of Iowa, and his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.