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Community perspectives on health impacts of potential wetland restoration in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans T. Scott 2007 Elizabeth Pleuss Public.

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Presentation on theme: "Community perspectives on health impacts of potential wetland restoration in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans T. Scott 2007 Elizabeth Pleuss Public."— Presentation transcript:

1 Community perspectives on health impacts of potential wetland restoration in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans T. Scott 2007 Elizabeth Pleuss Public Health Symposium ♦ University of Wisconsin-Madison ♦ May 9, 2008

2 Nelson Water Resources Management Program An interdisciplinary program leading to a Master of Science degree Key Component: group research practicum  One-year: Spring semester – planning seminar; summer – field work and analysis; fall – write report  Usually in Wisconsin  Usually working with a community group in a consultant/client relationship

3 The Issue Community is interested in incorporating wetland restoration into broader, community- based recovery and development plans Our Client The Holy Cross Neighborhood Association Our Mission Assess feasibility of cypress swamp restoration as part of community-based recovery; identify potential risks and benefits The Focus Today Community perceptions of health impacts of wetland restoration Betsy - The last living cypress in the triangle T. Scott 2007 Introduction

4 The Site – Mississippi Delta Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

5 Lower 9 th Ward The Site – New Orleans

6 The Site – The Lower Ninth Ward Site schematic depicting local infrastructural features and the Lower Ninth Ward. Aerial Views of the Bienvenue Triangle. From top clockwise: east to EBSTP; west to Industrial Canal; northeast along Bayou Bienvenue and GIWW. A. Ross 2007

7 Wetland Restoration Feasibility Assessment Wetland Site Characterization Social Context Characterization  History  Community views Past and potential future use of the bayou Current level of knowledge regarding wetlands Attitudes toward restoration  Level of community support for restoration  Trust of potential partners  Potential Impacts, Concerns  Economic  Environmental  Societal  Public Health Key Components

8 In-Depth Interviews Community Survey Community Attitudes and Views

9 Many in-depth interviews with community leaders and residents Used a “snow-ball” technique to identify key individuals to interview Interviewees offered memories of the wetland and the neighborhood, as well as thoughts and concerns about the restoration work Results helped us understand where residents were “coming from” – identify sensitive topics, tailor survey questions Ron Lewis, Lower Ninth Ward Resident and Curator of The House of Dance and Feathers E. Pleuss, 2007 In-Depth Interviews

10 37 Lower 9 th Ward residents Divided the Lower 9th Ward into 8 plots for geographically representative surveys Within the sections– sought to survey 5-10 households (based on probability proportionate to size principles) Sample of convenience – difficult to locate residents Hired 2 community members to assist with surveys Door to door, hour-long interview- style surveys Community Survey

11 Wetland Restoration and… Public Health?

12 Wetland Restoration and Public Health? Contaminated water  Many felt the water was likely contaminated from the storm and other events  Other residents felt that the very presence of fish and wildlife was an indicator of safety “The fish are there. If it wasn’t safe, they wouldn’t be there.”  Assimilation-specific concern: Potential effect of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants on aquatic organisms and humans (USGS, 2002). Concerns

13 Two-thirds of respondents did not think that the water in the Bayou was safe An additional 17% did not know or were uncertain How safe is the water in the Bayou? If residents have concerns about the water in the Bayou, who would you contact? 46% (of those offering a response) - City government 23% (of those offering a response) said they would not contact anyone Community views

14 Wetland Restoration and Public Health? Fish and seafood safety  Many residents avoid eating fish and seafood from the wetland, yet others eat the fish regularly 55.5% of surveyed residents do not think that fish and crab from the bayou are safe to eat  Wastewater assimilation has been associated with increases in heavy metals  Our tests showed that total mercury concentration was significantly lower than health-risk level Concerns

15 Wetland Restoration and Public Health? Diversion of scarce resources How important is wetland restoration is for the long term survival of New Orleans?  Very important, but other priorities come first The wetland can wait a while, people need their homes immediately Not so important right now. It is important… but not immediately Mental health issues  PTSD and Depression – most common "Don't want to talk about no water. It's too traumatic. When it rains, I shake.“ “I ain't worried about the swamp. I know too many people that drowned.” “I wouldn't go swimming. Scared I'd see some of my friends [dead]- or a corpse or something.” Concerns

16 Wetland Restoration and Public Health? Storm surge and flood protection  49% of respondents felt that wetland restoration was important for the long-term survival of New Orleans  An additional 13.5% felt it was important, but “not now”  Only 5% felt it was not important “The wetlands has our back -- if we lose our wetlands, this city goes down” Potential Benefits

17 Wetland Restoration and Public Health? Recreation, relaxation, and exercise opportunities Economic development and educational opportunities Combat land subsidence and climate change  Prevent coastal erosion  Serve as sinks of CO2 Clean water  Wetlands are a natural water filter, removing pollutants and excess nutrients Potential Benefits

18 65.4% saw nothing negative about having a wetland in the community, some specifically mentioned protective benefits 15.4% did see a wetland in the community as negative, concerns were about flooding, wild animals, mosquitoes, and bad smell Is there anything negative about having a wetland near your community? Community views

19 There is broad community support for wetland restoration  Statistical tests showed no significant association between support for restoration and age, gender, past use, or knowledge of wetlands Other priorities need to be addressed first Residents are not opposed to using wastewater assimilation for restoration  35% support it  19% were hesitant but not opposed  20% wanted more information  8% were opposed Conclusions

20 Need for education and outreach –regarding risks and benefits  realistic expectations Need analysis of sewerage plant effluent and capacity of wetland to absorb it Need continued monitoring for heavy metals in soil and fish Emotional and mental health needs must be taken into account Conclusions

21 Acknowledgements Rob Moreau, Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, SLU Austin Allen, UC-Denver School of Landscape Architecture Tulane and Xavier’s Center for Bio-Environmental Research University of Wisconsin Department of Geology and Geophysics Steve Johannsen, RMT, Inc. LSU School of Landscape Architecture, Baton Rouge New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans Alliance for Affordable Energy, New Orleans Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, New Orleans Picolo Products and Supplies, New Orleans U.S. Geological Survey, Middleton, Wisconsin Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Associated Students of Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Ira and Ineva-Reilly Baldwin Grant Sierra Club-Delta Chapter Practicum participants: Andrew Baker, Kristin Maharg, Laura Craig, Natalie Hunt, Jonathon Carter, Travis Scott, Ashleigh Ross, Kate Tillery- Danzer, Elizabeth Pleuss Nelson Institute Academic Programs Chair, Bill Bland Water Resources Management Chairs Linda Graham and Ken Potter Staff and faculty guest consultants from UW: David Armstrong, Jean Bahr, David Hart, David Lewis, Arthur McEvoy, Ken Potter, Stephanie Tai, Sue Thering, and Joy Zedler. From the Lower 9th Ward: Pamela Dashiell, Charles Allen III, John Koeferel, Steve Ringo, Warrenetta Banks, Kathy Muse, Marna, Darryl Malek-Wiley, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, and all the residents of the Lower Nine. I would like to thank the following individuals and groups for their generous and invaluable support throughout the entirety of this project: Most of all, I would like to thank our project advisor, Dr. Herbert Wang, and The McKnight Foundation for funding the publication of our report and generously providing for the continuation of this project for two more years.

22 Questions?

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