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Queens Chronicle

Getting the dirt on Hamilton Beach

Researcher wants to see what Sandy, tidal flooding left behind

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:27 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2019.

A Columbia University public health professor is preparing to study homes in Hamilton Beach to see what kind of lasting effect the persistent flooding has on families.

Researchers want to take samples in at least 18 homes to determine the impact of “legacy pollution” from Jamaica Bay on residents, according to a notice posted this week on the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association’s Facebook page.

Dr. Pam Factor-Litvak, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s School of Public Health, is scheduled to appear tonight, Oct. 17, at the civic association’s monthly meeting to pitch residents and find volunteers for the study.

She is “one of the leads on a research project looking at flooding and how it impacts the home and health,” the Facebook post said.

Calls to Frank-Litvak’s office this week were not returned.

But according to Roger Gendron, the civic association president, participants in the study will agree to visits by a team of researchers who will collect soil samples from the yard and dust samples from inside the house using a special vacuum cleaner.

Small hair samples will also be taken from family members.

Hamilton Beach, the small neighborhood located in the southeastern corner of Howard Beach on the edge of Jamaica Bay, is just now finishing up repairs to homes and streets caused by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, seven years ago this week.

Residents complain that the streets are regularly flooded and virtually impassable as many as a dozen times a year due to high tides.

The silt left behind in the neighborhood when the waters of Sandy and tidal flooding recede have never been analyzed for pollutants or for their effect on residents, Gendron said.

“The hair sample will be used to measure cortisol, a stress hormone and because hair grows at approximately inch per month, they can tell when levels of stress rise above the baseline,” said the Facebook post.

“Importantly, they will give back the levels of pollutants in the soil and dust to participants, so participants can work with independent contractors to reduce the levels, if appropriate.”

Frank-Litvak’s “current research interests concern the biological relationships between environmental exposures and development,” according to the Columbia University website.

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