Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Hurricane Sandy Response

Hurricane Sandy Response Efforts

Response timeline | December 8, 2012: 

AIR CURTAIN INCINERATORS � Announcing the Test Burn

General

At the request of New York City, on November 28 and 29, 2012, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began testing the use of an air curtain incinerator to burn vegetative debris, largely from downed trees, gathered in the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy. An air curtain incinerator is a self-contained system that reduces wood debris to ash. It is equipped with air blowers that circulate the air to improve combustion and minimize emissions of fine particles.

EPA is running eight fine particle monitors around the perimeter of Floyd Bennett Field to monitor for potential impacts of the air curtain devices. Results from these monitors are being compared to an established 24-hour health-based standard for fine particles.

Air Monitoring Results

Monitored levels of fine particles, which were measured over a 24-hour period that included the pilot burn, met EPA�s health-based standard for fine particles. That standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (�g/m3). During the November 28 and 29 air tests, no levels above the health-based standard were recorded. EPA provided this information to the Army Corps and New York City. Results of EPA�s air monitoring and the locations of the monitors can be found at:
http://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/results-11-2829-12.pdf and
http://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/map-11-2829-12.pdf

Additionally, EPA took air samples which are being analyzed for contaminants of concern. These samples will be analyzed in a laboratory and posted to the EPA website as soon as they become available.

Background Information on the Fine Particle Standard

Fine particles (PM2.5) are extremely tiny particles in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width. Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

EPA has established health-based air quality standards for PM2.5 in outdoor air. The short term air quality standard for PM2.5 is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (�g/m3) averaged over 24 hours. When this level is exceeded repeatedly over a three year period, EPA considers the air quality to be unhealthful. New York City is currently designated as an area not attaining EPA�s particle standard. However, the actual measured levels of fine particles in the New York metropolitan area have met EPA�s health-based air quality standards since 2007.

Read more about particulate matter (PM) air pollution at http://www.epa.gov/airquality/particlepollution/

Top of page


 

RESPONSE UPDATE

Debris Management:

EPA is coordinating with stakeholders, local and State governments as well as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard to first assess locations with reported orphaned containers and then to remove orphaned containers if necessary at various locations in New York and New Jersey.

Part of EPA�s debris management effort includes retrieving hazardous waste and properly disposing of it. In New York, EPA is assisting the state and the city in assessing and collecting orphaned drums and containers. EPA is also assisting in separating out hazardous waste from other waste at staging areas in New York. These debris management efforts in New York have resulted in the collection of 103,337 items including drums, propane tanks, cylinders and large and small containers. In New Jersey, EPA has been assisting the state in assessing and collecting large orphaned drums and containers. These efforts have resulted in a collection of 327 items including drums, cylinders and containers.

EPA is working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop and implement a plan on debris removal and will be working with New York State and local governments to collect household hazardous waste in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York. EPA is also working closely with New York City and the Corps of Engineers to set up household hazardous waste collection operations in New York City. As of November 20, EPA began curbside pickup of household hazardous waste in New York City neighborhoods impacted by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. For more information view the New York City press release and New York City Household Hazardous Waste Fact Sheet (PDF)(1 pg, about PDF). The primary focus of this effort is now in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Household Hazardous Waste collection and drop-off has been coordinated in Suffolk and Nassau Counties, New York. For more information view the Suffolk County press release and Suffolk County Household Hazardous Waste Fact Sheet) (1 pg, about PDF) and Nassau County press release and the Nassau County Household Hazardous Waste Fact Sheet (1 pg, about PDF).

Water and Wastewater Utilities:

New Jersey:

In response to requests from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and municipalities, EPA is providing assistance in assessing drinking water and wastewater facilities across the state. EPA has assessed 40 drinking water facilities and 23 wastewater treatment plants. Of these facilities, two wastewater treatment plants requested further assistance from EPA, and no drinking water facilities requested EPA assistance. EPA is providing assistance to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark, New Jersey and the Middlesex County Utility Authority in Sayreville, New Jersey.

    • The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission receives sewage and industrial waste from 48 municipalities in and around Newark. It is the fifth largest wastewater treatment plant in the nation. During the storm, the plant was flooded and lost electricity. On October 31, 2012, power was restored. EPA is working in partnership with state and federal agencies to remove wastewater from the plant and find environmentally safe solutions for sludge disposal until the plant is back in full operation.
    • During Hurricane Sandy, the Middlesex County Utility Authority lost power to its water utility intake pump. On November 6, 2012, power was restored. EPA worked with the utility and the state to fix damaged equipment.

    New York:

    In response to requests from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and municipalities, EPA is providing assistance in assessing drinking water and wastewater facilities across the state. To date, EPA has assessed 40 drinking water facilities and 12 wastewater treatment plants. None of these facilities required additional assistance from EPA.         

    Sampling Results for Drinking Water Wells on Shinnecock National Lands:

    At the request of the Shinnecock Nation on Long Island, EPA sampled three drinking water wells located on Shinnecock Nation land on November 10, 2012. The samples were analyzed for bacteria, turbidity and nitrates. Results from these samples show that the water from the wells meets New York State drinking water and groundwater standards. For results, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/nations/pdf/ShinnecockDW.pdf

    Contaminated Sites:

    In advance of Hurricane Sandy, EPA secured contaminated sites in the federal Superfund program in New Jersey and New York to protect against potential damage. Since the storm, EPA has been assessing these sites. All 105 of the short-term, removal sites have been assessed and do not pose an immediate threat to public health or the environment. All 142 long-term remedial sites in the area have been assessed. We do not believe that any sites were impacted in ways that would pose a threat to nearby communities. However, we have done additional follow up sampling at the Gowanus Canal site in Brooklyn, New York, the Newtown Creek site on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, New York and the Raritan Bay Slag site in Laurence Harbor and Sayreville, New Jersey.

    Newtown Creek Sampling:

    Newtown Creek, on the border of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, is contaminated from more than 150 years of pollution from refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The site was placed on the Superfund list in September 2010.

    On November 9, 2012, EPA took two samples in the Newtown Creek area. Samples were taken from the basement of a building on Eagle Street that had been flooded as well as directly from the creek. Levels of bacteria were high. While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters that contain sewage and therefore contain bacteria. Additional chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected. For more details, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/newtowncreek/

    Gowanus Canal Sampling:

    The Gowanus Canal is contaminated from many years of industrial discharges, spills, storm water runoff and combined sewer overflows. The site was added to the Superfund list in March 2010. In response to Hurricane Sandy, EPA immediately conducted a visual inspection of the length of the canal and the surrounding area and did not observe sediment on the streets.

    On October 31, 2012, EPA took four samples in the Gowanus Canal area. Samples were taken from the ground floors of two buildings that had been flooded as well as directly from the canal. One of the buildings is located at the head of the canal, and the other near the 3rd street turning basin. Levels of bacteria were elevated, as would be expected with water carrying sewage, therefore precautions should be taken when cleaning flood waters. Additional chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected. For more details, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/gowanus/

    Raritan Bay Slag Sampling:

    In response to Hurricane Sandy, EPA took four samples at the Raritan Bay Slag superfund site on November 3, 2012. The Raritan Bay Slag Site is located on a beach in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge, in the adjacent Margaret�s Creek marsh area, and in a nearby area of Sayreville, New Jersey. The site is contaminated with lead slag, a byproduct of metal smelting. This lead slag was used to construct a seawall and a jetty along the southern shore of the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville.

    The four samples taken on November 3, 2012 were taken in the Laurence Harbor Section of the site. Two of the four samples were taken from the public playground area, and the other two were taken from the restricted beach area previously enclosed by the fence.  

    Results showed that lead in three of the four samples meets the standard set to protect people while recreating. Lead in one sample taken in the restricted area of the beach was above the recreational limit. EPA will take additional samples to get a more detailed picture of how the material might have shifted. EPA also plans to replace the fence and put up signage around the site. For more details, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/raritanbayslag/

    Water Sampling:

    Newark Bay/NY Harbor Sampling Results:

    On November 29, 2012 EPA�s boat, �The Clean Waters,� was used to collect water samples in Newark Bay and New York Harbor at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Ten (10) samples of harbor and bay water were collected to determine concentrations of bacteria from the releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm damaged Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority.

    The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste. The established limit in New Jersey is 14 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for shellfish harvesting. Fecal coliform levels all ten (10) of EPA�s samples were above this limit.  EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into direct contact with the waters in Newark Bay and New York Harbor.

    Results of the EPA sampling and sampling conducted directly by NJDEP to date can be found using the following link:http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bmw/sandynyharbor.html

    Hudson River/Yonkers, N.Y. Wastewater Treatment Plant Sampling Results:

    On November 16, 2012, EPA�s vessel, �The Clean Waters,� was used to collect water samples in the Hudson River in the area surrounding the Westchester Yonkers joint Wastewater Treatment Plant outfall. The EPA collected 7 samples of water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged sewage treatment system in Westchester County.

    The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New York is 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for secondary contact such as boating, fishing, etc. The fecal coliform level of one EPA sample was above this limit. The EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into contact with the waters in and around the Westchester Yonkers Sewage Treatment Plant. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: http://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html

    Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which is generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. Results of the sampling can be found at: http://epa.gov/sandy/pdf/WestchesterYonkersWWTPNov152012.pdf

    Nassau County/Bay Park Water Sampling Results:

    On November 15, 2012, EPA�s vessel, �The Boston Whaler,� was used to collect water samples in the East Rockaway, Hog Island and Reynolds channels adjacent to Island Park and Long Beach, New York. The EPA took 11 samples of water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged Bay Park sewage treatment system in Nassau County.

    The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New York is 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for secondary contact such as boating, fishing, etc. Fecal coliform levels from EPA�s samples were below this limit. The EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into contact with the waters in and around the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: http://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html

    Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which are generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. Results of the sampling can be found at http://epa.gov/sandy/pdf/NassauCountyNov152012.pdf

    Raritan Bay/MCUA Sampling Results:

    On November 14, 2012, EPA�s vessel, �The Boston Whaler,� was used to collect water samples in the Washington Canal, Raritan River and upper Raritan Bay at the request of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The EPA took 12 samples of river and bay water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from the releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) sewage treatment system.

    The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New Jersey is 14 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for shellfish harvesting. Fecal coliform levels from EPA�s samples were above this limit. EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into direct contact with the waters in and around the tidal Raritan River/Washington Canal and Raritan Bay area. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: http://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html

    Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which are generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. To view a map and the results, visit www: http://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/RaritanBaydata20121116.pdf

    Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights Sampling Results:

    On November 6, 2012, EPA�s boat, �The Clean Waters,� was used to take water quality samples in coastal waters of New Jersey from Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights. There were 16 samples of ocean water collected 1-3 miles off the coast to determine potential impacts from the releases of raw sewage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

    The samples were analyzed for Enterococcus, a common group of bacteria associated with animal and human waste. The established limit for swimming is 104 bacteria colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Enterococcus levels from EPA�s samples were below this limit. Results of the sampling can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bmw/sandyatlanticocean.htm

    Ironbound/Passaic River Sampling

    The Passaic River has a long history of industrialization, which has resulted in degraded water quality, sediment contamination, loss of wetlands and abandoned or underutilized properties along the shore.  The lower Passaic River is considered part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site, which is a source of dioxin contamination to the river.

    Residences and commercial buildings near the Passaic River were impacted by flood waters during Hurricane Sandy.  On November 17, 2012 EPA obtained four samples of flood water from three residences adjacent to the river, in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ.  The samples from two of the residences were collected on or about October 29, 2012 by the residents themselves and given by them to EPA; the sample from the third residence was collected by EPA personnel on November 17, 2012.  On November 19, 2012 one further sample was taken from the Passaic River itself.  A total of five samples, including a duplicate sample taken as a quality control, were collected for analysis. 

    The samples were analyzed for bacteria and 189 different chemicals, including Metals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), Gasoline Range Organics (GROs), Diesel Range Organics (DROs), Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH), and Dioxins/Furans.  Due to insufficient sample volume, only bacterial analyses were performed on two of the three residential samples.

    Levels of bacteria were high.  While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters. Fact sheets detailing precautions that should be taken when cleaning flood waters can be found at http://www.epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html.

    Additional chemicals that were tested were either not detected, or were below levels of concern, with the exception of arsenic, iron, and lead. Arsenic and iron slightly exceeded drinking water standards, while concentrations of lead were about 20 times higher than the drinking water standard.  Drinking water standards are established to protect people drinking two liters of water daily for 70 years.  Because people were not drinking the floodwater, and had minimal contact with it for only a limited time, EPA does not consider these levels to be cause for concern.

    Concentrations of chemicals in the Passaic River were all below drinking water standards. Results of the sampling at are http://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/ironboundsummary.pdf. For more details, also visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/passaicriver/

    Cleanup and Recovery:

    In New Jersey and New York, EPA is helping the State to pump out oiled water in basements. People should report chemical or oil spills to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. 

    Top of page

    Response Timeline

    Nov 2012  8   9  10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    Dec 2012  1   2   4   6   8  10 12 14 17 18 27
    Jan 2013  2   3   4   7   8   9  10 11 14 15 16 17 18 22 23 24 25 29 30 31
    Feb 2013  1   4   5   6  7 8 12 13 14 20 21
    March 2013  1   7 
    April 2013 11

Jump to main content.