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EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Saturday, October 28

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WASHINGTON (October 28, 2017)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its round-the-clock response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in close coordination with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners. EPA remains focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

EPA Approves Additional Emergency Fuel Waiver for Puerto Rico
In response to Hurricane Maria, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt yesterday approved an additional request from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló for an emergency fuel waiver.

To minimize or prevent disruptions with the supply of diesel fuel for mobile nonroad generators and pumps used for emergency purposes, the EPA waived the diesel requirements through November 15, 2017, allowing the sale, distribution, and use of heating oil and marine fuel designated for use in Emission Control Areas (ECA marine fuel) that exceed the 15 parts per million (ppm) sulfur standard if the fuel meets certain conditions. The previous waiver was effective through October 15, 2017.

The waiver includes a warning that the use of diesel fuel exceeding the 15 ppm sulfur standard in any engine equipped with exhaust after treatment emission controls (e.g., diesel particulate filter) may cause serious damage to the engine and its emissions control components. The waiver authority was exercised under the Clean Air Act and was granted by EPA Administrator Pruitt, in coordination with the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

EPA continues to deploy personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as conditions allow. As of October 28, 2017:

  • About 293 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts.
  • About 72 personnel are on the ground in USVI to assist with response efforts.
  • About 120 personnel are on the ground in Puerto Rico to assist with response efforts.

Marine Operations
EPA is working with the U.S. Coast Guard on marine operations to assess sunken vessels around Puerto Rico and the USVI. Teams will locate and evaluate the condition of sunken vessels and assist with the disposal of recovered oil and hazardous materials. Approximately 726 vessels have been verified from field teams.   

Assessment of Superfund Sites, Oil Sites and Regulated Facilities
EPA has completed preliminary assessments at all accessible EPA-led Superfund sites, oil sites, and chemical facilities in both Puerto Rico and the USVI to determine if the sites were affected by Hurricane Maria, and is conducting follow-up actions, such as fence and structure repairs. In addition, EPA is coordinating with the lead federal agencies for two other sites, Culebra and Vieques.

EPA teams have assessed 240 fixed facilities in Puerto Rico and 65 in the USVI that are regulated under the Risk Management Plan (RMP), Facility Response Plan (FRP), or Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) programs.

Debris Management
EPA continues to work with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puerto Rico and the USVI governments on an overall debris management strategy to keep hazardous waste out of the environment while maximizing recycling efforts by segregating debris piles and minimizing the amount of waste going to landfills. EPA is assisting with the handling and disposal of household hazardous waste, medical waste, e-waste, and orphan containers, which include drums, tanks, fluid totes, canisters, cylinders and similar containers displaced by the hurricane found floating in or washed up near waterways. EPA plans to conduct air monitoring at collection areas and during all hazardous materials operations.

Drinking Water and Wastewater Management
EPA is continuing to coordinate with government agencies in Puerto Rico and the USVI to assess the conditions of drinking water, which includes sampling, analysis and lab support, and getting wastewater treatment systems up and running.

Water Safety
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should not use the water from rivers, streams and coastal water to drink, bathe, wash, or cook with unless first boiling this water for a minimum of one minute. If boiling the water is not possible, water may be disinfected with bleach. To learn more about making water safe in an emergency, go to CDC’s Making Water Safe in an Emergency web page.

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