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Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Air Quality Data: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Test Results

Environmental Assessment Summary for Areas of Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines Parishes Flooded as a Result of Hurricane Katrina (December 6, 2005)

Damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and cleanup/restoration activities may cause releases of air toxics and other air pollutants in the damaged areas. Such emissions could potentially affect downwind areas. Sources of this air pollution include: spills of volatile chemicals; start-up releases or leaks from industrial plants; dust from building demolition and debris transport; contaminated sediments that can be resuspended as dust, and smoke from open burning of debris.

Evaluating air quality is one of EPA’s top priorities during the recovery of the Gulf Coast region. EPA’s air monitoring includes:

Samples will be evaluated against a variety of benchmarks, standards, and guidelines established to protect public health under various conditions. Federal, state and local agencies will use the available data to make decisions related to cleanup and recovery, such as decisions related to debris burning.

While the results of rapid screening for toxic air pollutants conducted since 9/11/05 have identified several sources of pollutants to be addressed (e.g., oil spills, chemical releases), these data have otherwise been below short-term health levels of concern. These initial results do not represent all air conditions throughout the area. As this is a dynamic situation, general conclusions should not be made regarding air safety based on results from this snapshot of data.

Real-time data

These monitoring methods provide ozone and particle pollution levels that can be translated into Air Quality Index values.

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Air screening data

These methods provide an initial assessment of air quality.

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Time-delayed air sampling

Additional air sampling for several substances began the first week of October 2005:

This monitoring requires analysis of the air samples in a laboratory and therefore results in a lag between the date the sample was taken and the earliest date that EPA can report the results. Laboratory analysis results available as of July 12, 2006.

Air quality sampling results available after July 12th are on EPA's Air Quality System. Members of the public who are unfamiliar with this system may contact Virginia Ambrose (919-541-5454) for assistance in accessing these data.

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