Environmental Protection Agency____ ____________

9/26/05 3:00 PM

 

 

EPA emergency response personnel are working in partnership with FEMA to help assess the damage and prepare for cleanup from Katrina and Rita. In emergency situations such as this, under the National Response Plan, EPA serves as the primary agency for coordinating the federal response to releases of oil and hazardous materials. Our national and regional Emergency Operations Centers are activated 24 hours a day.

 

Actions

 

Katrina-specific Response – On 9/26, EPA operations resumed on a limited scale in New Orleans. Flood water and sediment sampling continued.

 

Rita-specific Response

Personnel - EPA has deployed three EPA response personnel and four contractors to the Regional Response Coordination Center in Austin, TX. The pre-deployment team is co-located with other federal and state personnel. An EPA Incident Management Team consisting of 18 EPA personnel is staged in Dallas, TX and will deploy to Northwest Houston on 9/26. Additional response and contract personnel are standing by and will be brought to the scene once an initial needs assessment is complete.

 

Chemical and Petroleum - The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA contacted chemical and refinery industry along the hurricane's path prior to the storm concerning their plans to secure and shut-down their plants. The Risk Management Program (RMP) under the Clean Air Act requires facilities to develop an emergency plan and coordinate their activities with local officials. Additional measures are being taken for any necessary response actions at chemical and petroleum facilities. EPA is mapping the facilities and sites impacted by Hurricane Rita. These maps will be used to conduct a Rapid Needs Assessment. EPA and EPA contractor staff are part of a 35 person Rapid Needs Assessment Team that includes Federal, state, and local members. EPA will focus on oil and hazardous material facilities and possible spill impact. EPA has also listed these facilities in the Agency’s Rapid Assessment Integrated Database (RAID) which prioritizes targets for the reconnaissance phase of the response. Chemical products stored at the larger facilities to assist responders are also being identified.

 

Superfund and Hazardous Waste Sites - EPA is mapping Superfund hazardous waste sites impacted by Hurricane Rita. Ten EPA/State teams are preparing to travel to all National Priorities List sites in areas affected by Hurricane Rita. Sites will be inspected in priority order, with all sites inspected within seven to ten days.

 

Overall Hurricane Response

Public Outreach – EPA has translated several documents, including press releases, news briefs, public safety advisories, and water safety information, into Spanish and Vietnamese to assist individuals in the affected areas. Additionally, FEMA requested EPA, and other federal agencies, provide a recorded message of information for broadcast over XM radio and TV to the evacuee shelters. EPA senior personnel are doing the interviews.

 

Gulf/Mississippi Water Sampling – On 9/26, EPA’s ocean water testing vessel, the Bold, will begin its mission to survey the waters of the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico in the plume of the Mississippi River. The surveys will take about three weeks to complete.

 

Air Monitoring -- On 9/23, EPA in coordination with LDEQ released results of air screening samples collected from multiple locations across New Orleans on 9/11 and 13-19. The screening samples show particle pollution at levels considered moderate or "code yellow" under the coarse particle AQI on September 13, 14, 18 and 19. At these levels, unusually sensitive people should consider not engaging in vigorous exercise. More information is available at: http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=particle.cover These initial results represent the beginning of extensive sampling efforts and do not represent all air conditions throughout the area. As this is a dynamic situation, general conclusions should not be made regarding air quality based on results from this snapshot of data.

 

EPA is conducting air sampling via several assets. The ASPECT airplane flew over Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont areas on 9/24 where a number of heavy industrial petrochemical facilities are located. Preliminary analysis of the screening data from these flights is expected this week. EPA’s ASPECT aircraft has done 15 flights to date. EPA’s two TAGA buses are being used to collect screening level air data in multiple locations throughout New Orleans. Data from air samples taken 9/12-9/18 is posted.

 

Hurricane-Related Fuel Waivers - In the continued effort to minimize potential fuel supply disruptions on 9/22 EPA expanded the waiver to allow conventional gasoline (CG) to be sold and distributed in the Houston-Galveston reformulated gasoline (RFG) covered area to cover the Dallas-Fort Worth RFG area through midnight on September 30. The State of Texas is preparing a request for a 30 day waiver for each of the phased-in implementation dates for the Texas Low Emission Diesel Program. The new dates, based on the request, would be October 30 for producers and importers, December 15 for terminals and distributors, and January 30, 2006 for retail. In a related action, EPA granted a third waiver to extend the 9/9 waiver to allow regulated parties to distribute and sell CG in the Richmond, Virginia RFG covered area through midnight on 9/30. Retail outlets and wholesale purchaser-consumers will be allowed to continue selling or dispensing this fuel after 9/30, until their supplies are depleted. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/katrina/waiver/index.html.

Public Information -- On 9/19, EPA posted on its Web site an extensive list of questions and answers regarding flood water, drinking water, wastewater, human health, air issues, sediment, oil spills and superfund sites, asbestos, debris, and fuel waivers. http://www.epa.gov/katrina/faqs.htm Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals publicized its boil notice for water systems affected by Hurricane Rita system in a news release on 9/23/05. EPA assisted by distributing the news release in both Louisiana and East Texas.

Sediment Sampling – On 9/22, EPA posted analytical results of sediment sampling from New Orleans. On 9/16 based on the initial results of this data, EPA recommended avoiding all contact with the sediment, where possible, due to the presence of E. coli and fuel oils. In the event contact occurs, EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the use of soap and water, if available, to clean the exposed areas, and removal of contaminated clothing.

EPA-CDC Report -- EPA and CDC formed a joint task force to advise local and state officials of the potential health and environmental risks associated with returning to the City of New Orleans. The initial Environmental Health Needs & Habitability Assessment issued 9/17 identifies a number of barriers to be overcome and critical decisions to be made prior to re-inhabiting New Orleans. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/katrina/reports/envneeds_hab_assessment.html

Debris Assessment and Collection Collection activities are resuming following Rita for household hazardous wastes (HHW) and orphan containers in the hurricane affected area. In addition, EPA personnel will continue to offer technical assistance in the disposal of hazardous waste and other debris left behind by the storm. As of 9/22, EPA has collected over 37,550 HHW/orphan containers throughout the affected region. Four collection sites have been put into place for collection of these wastes in MS and AL and one collection site has been located in St. Tammany Parish, LA. The draft Debris Removal Plan is in final review. The plan will enable Federal agencies and the State of Louisiana to comprehensively manage funding for large scale and complex debris.

 

Superfund Sites - There are 16 NPL sites in the hurricane Katrina affected area of LA, 6 in AL and 3 in MS. 16 of the sites in LA have had initial assessments. Initial Rapid Assessments have been made on the 9 sites in AL and MS. EPA is still in the assessment phase, and will continue to monitor all the impacted NPL sites. Teams are ready to go to sample all affected NPL sites (both Katrina and Rita). On 9/25, a team collected one surface water sample from the People’s Canal at the Agriculture Street site.

 

Drinking Water Assessment -- In the LA affected area, there are a total of 683 drinking water facilities that served approximately 2.8 million people. As of 9/25, EPA has determined that 548 of these facilities are operational, 17 are operating on a boil water notice and 118 are either inoperable or their status is unknown. In the MS affected area, there are a total of 1,368 drinking water facilities that served approximately 3.2 million people. EPA has determined that 1,228 of these facilities are operational, 100 are operating on a boil water notice and 40 are either inoperable or their status is unknown. In the AL affected area, there are a total of 72 drinking water facilities that served approximately 960,682 people. EPA has determined that all 72 of these facilities are operational. It should be noted that operational facilities may still be in need of repair or reconstruction. EPA’s Water program is preparing to assess all drinking water plants after Hurricane Rita passes through.

Wastewater -- In the LA affected area, there are a total of 122 Public Owned Treatment Works (POTW). As of 9/22, EPA has determined that 87 of these facilities are operational and 35 facilities are either not operating or their status is unknown. In the MS affected area, there are a total of 118 POTW. EPA has determined that 114 of these facilities are operational and 4 facilities are either not operating or their status is unknown. In the AL affected area, only 1 facility is not operating with 7 others having operational difficulties. It should be noted that operational facilities may still be in need of repair or reconstruction. EPA issued an emergency Administrative Order to the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans to temporarily allow discharges from the East Bank Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Mississippi as a result of Katrina. This effort was coordinated with LDEQ. EPA has developed a set of questions and answers that will assist in responding to inquiries. Discussions among agencies represented at the Joint Field Office are ongoing to determine when to stop pumping water out of New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain. EPA personnel are reviewing historic water quality and current conditions obtained from environmental sampling. EPA’s Water program is preparing to assess all wastewater treatment plans.