Dr. Adrienne Katner is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (ENHS) and also the Director of the ENHS Program. Dr. Katner conducts community-engaged research to inform policies, interventions and public health practices. She has evaluated community exposures to air, soil and water pollutants associated with corroding drinking water infrastructure, industrial sites, highways, and seafood. Her work is aimed at finding evidence-based solutions. Towards this end, she has evaluated the efficacy of policy, education and environmental interventions (i.e., water filtration and treatment) in reducing community exposures and risks. Dr. Katner’s outreach and ongoing assistance to low-income and minority communities was recognized by local non-profits with a “Katrina Award for Environmental Justice” in 2015, and local “Community Hero” awards in 2017 and 2018. Some of her research projects are highlighted below.

Drinking Water Research: Dr. Katner’s Lead Exposure Assessment for Drinking Water (LEAD) study began in 2015. This study was triggered by the spikes of water lead levels in New Orleans homes after Hurricane Katrina, due to prolonged water stagnation. The study initially aimed to see if flushing taps helped reduce lead levels in water. Along the way, Dr. Katner identified additional issues. Her work revealed that lead levels in water peak during routine water line repairs and replacements, activities which had begun ramping up throughout the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. This work spurred the New Orleans General Inspector’s Office to issue a warning about this widespread risk. She also found that while flushing taps helps reduce lead in water levels, results varied and the length of time needed to flush water lines far exceeded the 30 second and 1 minute recommendations used by most water utilities and public health officials (levels did not significantly decline until after 5-6 minutes of high flow rate flushing). Research done in collaboration with her partners at VA Tech indicated that the best exposure reduction measures for lead in water are low-cost faucet mount filters and water pitchers that are NSF-53 certified to remove lead. Such filters can remove >95% of lead in water if properly maintained. However, these filters will not be a cost-effective solution for towns with high levels of particulates like iron in their water, a condition which many rural towns throughout LA face. More details on Dr. Katner’s Lead Exposure Assessment for Drinking Water can be found here.

Disaster Preparedness and Impact Research: Dr. Katner has also investigated disaster preparedness and recovery of both well-reliant communities and government officials for unprecedented storm and flood events. Her research on water quality issues after the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016 revealed well water contamination with metals and water pathogens. In collaboration with VA Tech researchers, the team revealed that widely used well water disinfection practices may not provide sufficient long-term protection from water pathogens for well users; that well users needed more evidence-based information to ensure proper well maintenance and well water testing and treatment; that well-reliant communities need more access to data about hazards in their area after natural disasters. The team created a more comprehensive well water disinfection protocol aimed at providing more well users with up-to-date evidence-based guidelines to ensure proper long-term disinfection of well water. Dr. Katner has also investigated community exposures to industrial contaminants after hurricanes. Her investigations in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida revealed that returning residents were being exposed to chloroprene which was being released from an inoperative facility in St. John the Baptist Parish. Her report on this situation for the LA Department of Health resulted in later EPA and OSHA investigations and identification of an open air waste pit.

Community-Engaged Research: Dr. Katner regularly assists communities by helping them monitor their environment, find and understand health and other data on their neighborhoods, and engage with public officials. Her investigations on behalf of St. Joseph and Enterprise LA residents, identified lead in water issues which were later addressed by state public health officials. Her work on behalf of residents in the Treme and the 7th Ward neighborhoods of New Orleans LA identified air quality issues around the Interstate-10 Claiborne Expressway. This research formed the basis of an EPA Community Air Monitoring grant which she and her community partners are just commencing. Air monitoring data will be used to inform community planning for the Claiborne Avenue Corridor.

From left: Dr. Katner checking out a partial lead service line replacement; testing school tap water; monitoring lead in playgrounds; and tox-touring Treme with local advocates, students, and teachers.

Dr. Kari Fitzmorris Brisolara is a Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and also the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs within the School of Public Health. Her research centers on the development of innovative reuse options for agricultural and municipal waste. Specific areas of research interest include the use of indicator organisms in the evaluation of process efficacy for municipal biosolids and stabilization assessment of biosolids. She serves on the board of the Louisiana Environmental Health Association and was previously on the board of the Georgia Environmental Health Association.

COVID-19 Wastewater Research: Dr. Brisolara evaluated the EPA, CDC and OSHA policies regarding safety practices recommended for wastewater management operators during the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her research team concluded that the highest risk of exposure is related to spreading and handling untreated feces or stool, followed by untreated municipal sludge, the class B biosolids, while lowest risk is associated with spreading or handling Class A biosolids. This review reinforced federal recommendations and the importance of vigilance in applying occupational risk mitigation measures to protect public and occupational health.

Policy Work: As an active member of the Water Environment Federation, she has participated in the development of congressional position statements on the Farm Bill and EPA’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Rule in Washington, D.C. She has also served in various leadership roles including being elected to House of Delegates twice as a Delegate at Large, representing the academic community. Dr. Brisolara is active in four communities within WEF: Disinfection and Public Health (current Chair), Residuals and Biosolids (past chair of Sustainable Use Subcommittee), Small Communities, and Research and Innovation.

Education and Consulting: She has published over 50 scientific journal articles, given over 100 conference presentations, and authored or co-authored 12 book chapters and 17 technical reports. She has consulted with several private companies regarding approval of waste treatment processes with USEPA’s Pathogen Equivalency Committee. In addition to developing multiple continuing education courses for the on-site sewage industry in both traditional and online formats including Safety and On-Site Sewage Management, Pathogens of Concern in On-Site Sewage, and Wastewater Characteristics, she served as the PI and Director of the ÉCOLE collaborative under the funded NIEHS SRP R25 for the past three years. For students in the MPH program, she is PI for the HRSA Public Health Scholarship Program “Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans Scholarships for Public Health Education, outReach, and Equity (LSU SPHERE)”. This funding is over 90% scholarships, the only other cost associated is marketing and outreach.

From left: Dr. Brisolara (center) working with students at the USDA lab; conducting a poliovirus spike field test;