Environmental Contaminationas a Result of Flooding: A Case Study of Heating Oil Pollution in the Red River Valley

EPA Grant Number: R828081E02
Title: Environmental Contaminationas a Result of Flooding: A Case Study of Heating Oil Pollution in the Red River Valley
Investigators: Tilotta, David C. , Kozliak, Eugene , Pyle, Sally J.
Institution: University of North Dakota - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hunt, Sherri
Project Period: May 1, 2000 through August 31, 2003
Project Amount: $207,000
RFA: EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: EPSCoR (The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research)


Floods and flooding often result in widespread contamination that poses both immediate and long-term threats to human health and the environment. The environmental consequences of flooding, however, can be extremely complex and difficult to assess due to their large spatial extent, multiple sources, sinks, and types of pollutants, and potential effects on nearly all components of the environment. Using Grand Forks, North Dakota as a "backyard laboratory", the proposed research will determine the magnitude, nature, and extent of environmental contamination by heating oil as a result of flooding. Specifically, the proposed research will use the recent pollution of the Red River Valley with home heating oil, caused by the 1997 flood, as a case study. Based on the most significant problems identified as a result of that event, specific objectives for this work are as follows:

    1. an assessment of human exposure to heating oil vapors in homes following the spilling of large amounts (e.g., 260 gallons) of oil; and

    2. the development of methods for the efficient remediation of heating oil from contaminated building materials.


The project employs a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to addressing the effects of heating oil contamination on the environment and human health. In addition to the laboratory studies, the proposed research will take advantage of the natural outdoor laboratory in Grand Forks generated by the Red River of the north flood in 1997. Specifically, several field studies are proposed which will involve simulating flood conditions in homes in order to determine the fate (i.e., sinks, transport pathways, and mechanisms) of heating oil contamination. Following this work, bioremediation measures will be studied in the laboratory and then applied in the field in order to identify heating oil clean-up methodologies.

Expected Results:

The proposed work will result in:

    1. an assessment of the magnitude of the problem of flood-related environmental contamination (with respect to heating oil in this study);

    2. post-flood strategies for dealing with chemical contamination;

    3. Best environmental practices in flood-prone areas; and

    4. decreased risks of disaster-related human health problems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

risk assessment, soil, water, indoor air, exposure, health effects, human health, sensitive populations, chemicals, NAPL, remediation, bioremediation, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Geographic Area, Waste, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Health Risk Assessment, Treatment Technologies, State, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, indoor air, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, floods, chemical spill characterization, buildings, contaminants, heating oil spills, contaminated building material, adverse human health affects, hazardous waste, human exposure, flood related environmental contamination, indoor air quality, flood hazard initiatives, human health risk, North Dakota (ND), bioremediation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final Report