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 and Removal Actions
Assessment Teams, comprised of USCG, EPA and ADEM have integrated their teams and are conducting assessments, and removal actions in Bayou Labara, Mobile, Mobile County and Baldwin County.
In Baldwin County, teams completed assessment, recovery and staging operations in the area. EPA provided oversight for the removal of hazmat items from temporary collection points.
Teams in Bayou Labatre continue to conduct land and water assessments of the area. Recovery operations have removed approximately 1,500 gallons of diesel from an 8,000-gallon tank located in the water. An assessment of a sunken vessel revealed no active releases and the vents and fuel tanks were plugged.
Region 4 has reorganized their command structure in Mississippi to cover the three coastal counties of Mississippi. Three divisions were formed to address the needs and respond to reports in the counties of Hancock (Division A), Harrison (Division B), and Jackson, Mobile and Baldwin (Division C).
The teams continue to assess, recover and stage items found during responses to reports and assessments throughout the three divisions.
Three facility inspection teams are conducting site visits in the Mobile, Ala., and Pascagoula, Miss., areas to assess damage and environmental impact.
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 931 operating systems and 228 that have not reported their status, or can’t be contacted. Boil water notices have been issued to 452 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 two, as the notice was lifted for the North Choctaw system. Both 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.