Houston/Galveston Bay

Project Title:

Texas A&M Superfund Research Center: Comprehensive tools and models for addressing exposure to mixtures during environmental emergency-related contamination events


This project involves efforts to measure contaminants in the sediment and their effects on public health following hurricanes and tropical storms. UNC researchers are part of the decision core that will develop new strategies for evaluating the costs and benefits of various remediation strategies, as well as how the financial risks associated with these very expensive cleanup activities.

Houston Ship Channel flooding levels during Hurricane Harvey (8/27/17 - 9/03/17)

Houston Ship Channel flooding levels during Hurricane Harvey (8/27/17 – 9/03/17)


The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (Superfund Center) will comprehensively evaluate the complexities of hazardous chemical exposures, potential adverse health impacts, and potential hazards of exposures to complex mixtures through a series of multi-disciplinary projects that derive from a case study the impacts of hurricanes in Galveston Bay. More than 100 years of legacy chemicals can be found in the sediment in Galveston Bay. These chemicals can be mobilized during a severe storm and transported to land. When this happened during Hurricane Ike in 2008, officials were uncertain as to whether the chemicals were toxic. They also lacked the resources to assess and mitigate the potential risks to public health. The Texas A&M Superfund Center project teams will measure as many “known-unknown” or “unknown-unknown” contaminants in the sediment and then expand the current understanding of additional exposures, going beyond the “one-chemical-at-a-time” approach by focusing on “whole mixtures,” which will allow the work to be applied to other, human-caused environmental crises in other locations. An important component of the project will be the development of a comprehensive set of tools that can be used as models for cities, counties, states, the federal government, and other entities that respond to disasters in an effort to mitigate the health consequences of exposure to hazardous mixtures during emergency-related contamination events. Researchers at UNC will work with their counterparts at Texas A&M to develop estimates of the costs and benefits of various remediation approaches. Our team will then work to develop financial risk management strategies involving such measures as insurance company assessments, state reserve funds and reinsurance that will support these cleanup efforts whose costs are both very large and unpredictable.

Project Website:



Texas A&M: Dr. Ivan Rusyn (Lead PI), Dr. Weihsueh Chiu (Decision Science Core Leader)


In preparation


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) logo

Gregory Characklis, PhD, Director, Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems
William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

139 Rosenau Hall
CB #7431
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7431
(919) 843-5545