EPA coordinates responses to many kinds of emergencies, some of which are of national significance and require extensive coordination with other government agencies. These activities demonstrate EPA's emergency management program and provide valuable experience so that EPA can better prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies in the future.
In response to Hurricane Sandy, EPA has been supporting FEMA and working closely with federal agencies and the states of New Jersey and New York to protect the public's health and the environment through multiple activities. EPA worked to assess damage and respond to environmental concerns.
On Sunday, May 22, 2011, a major tornado rated EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale touched down in Joplin, Mo., killing more than 150 people, injuring hundreds of others, and destroying more than 8,000 structures in the community of nearly 50,000 residents. EPA, under the coordination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responded to critical environmental emergency incidents, conducting rapid needs assessments of damaged or destroyed facilities and coordinating the removal of household hazardous wastes.
On March 11, 2011, a devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami, damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant causing the release of radioactive material. On March 15, 2011, EPA began monitoring nationwide radiation levels through RadNet, which continuously monitors the nationís air and regularly monitors drinking water, milk and precipitation for environmental radiation.
On April 22, 2010, the mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon, owned and managed by Transocean and contracted by BP P.L.C., sank after an explosion and a severe fire. Following the explosion, large quantities of crude oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico. EPA, supporting the US Coast Guard led the oil spill response, sampled, analyzed, interpreted and posted over 5,000 water, sediment, air, and waste samples during the BP Oil Spill response.
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, EPA has led the cleanup efforts for hazardous materials released during the storm. EPA provided detailed safety information for residents of the affected region, answered questions about remaining environmental hazards, and published monitoring data, test results, and other information of interest.
In 2003, EPA partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recover and clean up debris from the Columbia Space Shuttle accident. Much of the debris was contaminated with toxins from the space shuttle, making it necessary to locate and recover the debris before it posed a risk to human health and the environment.
EPA emergency responders investigated the 2001 suspected anthrax threat, removing and testing all suspected materials from the Capitol buildings, and ensuring the safety of federal workers.
The destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 required immediate response from EPA in a number of areas. During and after the cleanup, EPA protected the health of people in the area around Ground Zero by maintaining continuous monitoring for hazardous air pollutants and other substances that might have been released. Many nearby buildings were destroyed or had to be demolished in the aftermath of the attack, and EPA has worked with other organizations to ensure that these buildings were dismantled safely, and offered cleanup and testing services to buildings and individuals with contamination concerns.
This 1989 oil spill was one of the largest and most hazardous in U.S. history. The Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker, spilled over 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska, threatening dozens of animal species, some of them endangered. The sheer scale of the spill, combined with its remote location and adverse conditions, tested the National Contingency Plan's ability to address major spills. Responders from multiple agencies used a wide range of techniques to clean up the spill.
Floreffe, Pennsylvania Oil Spill
In January 1988, a four-million gallon oil storage tank owned by Ashland Oil Company, Inc., split apart and collapsed at an Ashland oil storage facility located in Floreffe, Pennsylvania, near the Monongahela River.
In 1979, the nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant suffered a core meltdown due to a loss of cooling fluids. EPA established an onsite station to monitor radiation levels at the plant and in the surrounding areas, ensuring the safety of local residents and the environment. EPA monitoring efforts continued for 9 years, at which point they were taken over by the State of Pennsylvania. This incident led to the establishment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate future nuclear responses.