Response to Hurricane Katrina
Boil Drinking Water
EPA has been on scene at the Hurricane Katrina response in Mississippi and Alabama for more than a week now, working with federal, state and local agencies on a coordinated cleanup effort. The hurricane caused major damage to the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines and will require extensive cleanup and long-term repairs for citizens and businesses. EPA will remain on the scene as long as our assistance is required. The following is an update on the daily activities conducted by EPA and its contractors as they respond to oil and chemical spills and help identify displaced containers of hazardous or potentially hazardous debris.
Assessment teams are reporting each response conducted in the field, and based on current reports, EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard have responded to approximately 153 incidents in Mississippi and Alabama.
Assessment Teams, comprised of USCG, EPA and ADEM have integrated their teams and are conducting assessments, and removal actions in Bayou Labatre, Mobile, Mobile County and Baldwin County.
Removal operations of two 500-gallon fuel tanks and 350 gallons of diesel were completed in Bayou Lebatre. A survey of one-third of the west side of Bayou Labatre led to the identification of drums and cylinders to be recovered.
Region 4 has reorganized their command structure in Mississippi on a county basis. Three divisions were formed to address the needs and respond to reports in the counties of Hancock (Division A), Harrison (Division B), and Jackson (Division C).
Activities in Hancock included coordinating with officials for activities in the county and surveying potential collection points for hazardous wastes. Along with the USCG, EPA provided oversight for pumping operations on a 20,000-gallon tank, where approximately 1,500 gallons of product were removed. They also performed oversight during petroleum pumping operations on two shrimp boats.
Drinking Water Assessment
An EPA Water Division Assistance Team is continuing its assessment of damage to local drinking water systems in Mississippi and providing technical assistance to help restore safe drinking water to those systems. Due to the possibility of extensive damage to their distribution systems, many drinking water facilities will be conducting long-term repairs. Mississippi is currently assessing approximately 1,368 public water systems across the state and has sent out an assessment team to travel south nearer to the coast to conduct site visits to systems that could not be contacted. There are currently 854 operating systems and 311 that have not reported their status, or can’t be contacted. Boil water notices have been issued to 464 water systems, and samples from these systems will be analyzed for total coliform bacteria before the systems can restore safe drinking water to the communities they serve.
The number of drinking water systems remaining on “Boil Water Notice” in Alabama was reduced to three. All of these systems are operational, and are awaiting bacteriological test results. The boil water notices may be removed this week.
Because systems are impaired or disabled, EPA reminds citizens in affected areas to follow "boil water" advisories in place. For more information, please read the "Boil Drinking Water" Alert on the Region 4 hurricane Web page at http://epa.gov/region4/Katrina/index.htm.
EPA will release information from the environmental assessments as it becomes available. Reporters should contact the EPA Press Office at (404) 562-8327 for interviews and additional information.