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EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Thursday, October 26 (PHOTO)

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WASHINGTON -- 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 continues to work with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (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 will assist with the handling and disposal of household hazardous waste, medical waste, e-waste, and orphan containers, which include drums, tanks, fluid totes, canisters and similar containers found floating in or washed up near waterways. EPA plans to conduct air monitoring at collection areas and during all hazardous materials operations.

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. EPA’s missions also include oil and chemical spill response, oil and chemical facility assessments and debris management. 

EPA continues to deploy personnel to Puerto Rico and the USVI as conditions allow. As of October 26, 2017:
•    About 289 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts.
•    About 69 personnel are on the ground in USVI to assist with response efforts.
•    About 119 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 on the eastern coast of Puerto Rico and USVI.

Teams will locate and evaluate the condition of sunken vessels and assist with the disposal of recovered oil and hazardous materials. Approximately 251 vessels have been verified from field teams.  

Assessment of Superfund Sites, Oil Sites and Regulated Facilities
EPA has completed preliminary assessments at 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. 

Drinking Water and Wastewater Management
EPA continues to coordinate drinking water sampling with the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources. In Puerto Rico, EPA continues to work closely with the commonwealth government to assess both drinking water and wastewater systems.

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 to 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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