Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Air Quality Data: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
- Murphy Oil Spill
- Superfund National Priority List Sites
- Soil Testing at Schools
- Gentilly Landfill
- Temporary Housing Locations
- Hazardous Waste Sites in Mississippi
- Naval Construction Battalion Center – Gulfport, Mississippi
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.
- Fixed site continuous particle pollution (PM2.5) monitors:
Monitoring sites in hurricane-impacted areas are monitoring fine particle levels that are used to calculate Air Quality Index values.
Air Quality Conditions and Forecasts for Louisiana and Mississippi
EPA is using a remote-sensing aircraft known as ASPECT (Airborne Spectral imagery of Environmental Contaminants Technology) to locate chemical spills that may need emergency response to protect both water quality and air quality. All data produced through the use of the ASPECT are non-validated and are used by EPA and other agencies for screening purposes only to assess immediate environmental hazards. Information and data from ASPECT analyses are forwarded to ground level personnel who evaluate the data and request follow-up air monitoring, if warranted.
View ASPECT screening data
EPA has two real-time air monitoring mobile laboratories in New Orleans. These labs, known as TAGA (Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer) buses, are helping us to get an initial assessment of air quality and to identify pollution sources to address. The samples were analyzed for volatile priority pollutants such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, which are commonly found in gasoline, as well as other industrial chemicals.
View TAGA screening data
- Particle pollution measurements
EPA is measuring airborne particulate matter with an instrument (MIE DataRAM nephelometer) that is often used in emergency response situations, because it is battery-powered, portable and gives immediate readings. This monitor provides an approximate measure of inhalable particles. These are not the types of monitors that EPA uses to monitor air quality compliance, and the results cannot be directly compared to EPA’s national air quality standards or the Air Quality Index.
View DataRAM screening data
- metals (for example, lead and arsenic)
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs; for example benzene)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs; pollutants associated with burning activities)
- particulate matter
- other pollutants
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.