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News Releases from HeadquartersLand and Emergency Management (OLEM)

EPA Hurricane Florence Update Tuesday, September 18, 2018

09/18/2018
Contact Information: 

WASHINGTON (September 18, 2018) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is coordinating closely with local, tribal, state, and federal partners as the Agency focuses on responding to the impacts of Hurricane Florence. EPA is monitoring numerous sources of information for reports on releases of oil and hazardous substances from first responders engaged in search and rescue efforts, as well as media observations and reporting, information from facility personnel embedded at their sites, and the National Response Center. EPA is also monitoring information flows from the local command posts, state, and regional emergency operations centers.    

EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) are deployed to the State Emergency Operation Centers (SEOCs) in North Carolina and South Carolina and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta to assist with Emergency Support Function (ESF) 10 for Oil and Hazardous Substances response efforts. Additional OSCs and equipment are ready to deploy. EPA continues to coordinate with our federal, state, tribal, and local government partners to provide assistance as needed.  

As of September 18, 2018, the following information is available: 

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 18, 2018

  • EPA is working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to coordinate resources and prepare for joint field assessments later this week under the Direct Federal Assistance (DFA) Mission Assignment (MA) issued yesterday. An EPA Incident Commander reported to the SEOC on September 17 to prepare for activation of EPA assessment teams.   
  • On September 17, 2018, EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a fuel waiver for North Carolina. EPA has waived the highway diesel fuel red dye requirements to allow the sale and use of non-road diesel fuel in highway vehicles in North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence, effective immediately and through September 28, 2018. 
  • The FEMA Region 3 Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) was deactivated, and all ESFs were discharged as of 5:00 pm on September 17, 2018. As of today, FEMA Region 3 is on enhanced watch status as of as the remnants of tropical depression Florence move out of the Region.  
  • EPA Region 3 has received no reports of impacts to drinking water utilities or bypasses to storm-related wastewater and sewer systems.

HEADQUARTERS EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER 

  • The EPA headquarters EOC is fully activated. EPA is staffing ESF-10 for oil and hazardous materials at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters. 
  • On September 13, 2018, Reggie Cheatham, Director of EPA's Office of Emergency Management, participated in a press briefing at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. He has also participated in daily press briefings coordinated by FEMA over the past few days. 
  • Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler continues to convene the EPA Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) for coordination around the response, including a meeting at 4:30pm today with the PCC.  

REGIONAL OPERATIONS CENTERS 

Region 3 

  • The FEMA Region 3 RRCC was deactivated, and all ESFs were discharged as of 5:00pm on September 17, 2018. As of today, FEMA Region 3 is on enhanced watch status as the remnants of tropical depression Florence move out of the Region. They continue to monitor flooding and potential flooding in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. FEMA Region 3 is in the process of demobilizing or shifting assets pre-staged for Hurricane Florence to support FEMA Region 4 and disaster response in the Carolinas.  
  • EPA Region 3 is monitoring the storm and the potential impacts, if any, on the National Priorities List (NPL) sites in the Region. To date, there is no storm related damage to report.
  • EPA Region 3 has received no reports of impacts to drinking water utilities or bypasses to storm-related wastewater and sewer systems.
  • EPA Region 3 has offered to support Region 4 for mission assignment work or response work.

Region 4: The EPA Region 4 Regional Emergency Operations Center (R4 REOC) is activated. It is currently operating 12-hours daily. Region 4 has approximately 28 personnel currently involved in emergency response efforts. 

  • EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn remains in contact with Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and is working with emergency response staff to determine regional assessment and response deployment activities. Other Region 4 states have also been contacted to offer support in the event of hurricane impacts.    
  • EPA Liaison Officers are deployed to the FEMA RRCC.  
  • EPA Region 4’s Regional Readiness Center has the Mobile Command Post, emergency response trailers, utility terrain vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, the breathing air trailer, communications equipment, air monitoring instruments, and field equipment ready for deployment.  

North Carolina: The North Carolina State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is currently operating at Level 1 (full activation). 

  • On September 17, EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a fuel waiver for North Carolina. EPA has waived the highway diesel fuel red dye requirements to allow the sale and use of non-road diesel fuel in highway vehicles in North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence, effective immediately and through September 28. 
  • FEMA issued a Mission Assignment (MA) for Direct Federal Assistance (DFA) to EPA R4 on September 16 to provide ESF-10 assistance to North Carolina including, but not limited to facility assessment and oil and hazardous substance response. The MA was in the amount of $2.3 million with a 25 percent State cost share and has a period of performance from September 15 to October 15.   
  • EPA is working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to coordinate resources and prepare for joint field assessments later this week under the DFA MA issued yesterday. An EPA Incident Commander reported to the SEOC on September 17 to prepare for activation of EPA assessment teams.   
  • EPA Region 4 received notification of a train derailment near Lilesville, North Carolina on September 16 and an unknown volume of diesel was released from the fuel tanks of the locomotives. The derailment reportedly occurred due to a washout of the railway as a result of Hurricane Florence. An EPA On-Scene Coordinator and Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team consultants were deployed to assess the scene, ensure adequate response, provide air monitoring and other operational support, as needed. The diesel fuel accumulated in a low-lying area and did not reach the Pee Dee River. CSX contractors are on-scene and mitigating the spill.  
  • EPA is monitoring hog lagoons in storm-impacted areas and is coordinating with North Carolina, as needed, to assess impacts to downstream drinking water intakes due to possible releases. EPA On-Scene Coordinators and equipment stand ready to deploy, if needed. 
  • EPA is closely coordinating with North Carolina and coal ash impoundment operators to assess the status of any facilities impacted by the storm, and will provide assistance as needed or requested by the State. 
  • At the state’s request, the EPA North Carolina out-posted On-Scene Coordinator began staffing the North Carolina SEOC ESF-10 desk on September 10. 
  • An EPA Water Division technical specialist at the North Carolina Emergency Operation Center is supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Carolina Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to monitor the status of North Carolina’s wastewater treatment and drinking water systems.
  • On September 11, 2018, EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a fuel waiver for North Carolina. This waiver relieved the requirements to use summer blend fuel, and expired on September 15, which was the end for the high ozone season. Additionally, a blending waiver was signed, which was effective immediately and continues through October 1. 
  • EPA field teams are scheduled for deployment this week to begin the post-storm field assessments for Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) Sites in GA and SC, and will move into NC once conditions allow. 

South Carolina: The South Carolina EOC is currently at OPCON 1 activation (Full ESF Activation — 24-hour operations).   

  • At the state's request, the EPA South Carolina out-posted On-Scene Coordinator began staffing the South Carolina EOC ESF-10 desk on September 12. 
  • The State has made no further request for EPA assistance. 
  • EPA field teams are scheduled for deployment this week to begin the post-storm field assessments for Superfund NPL Sites in GA and SC. 
  • On September 11, 2018, EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a fuel waiver for South Carolina. This waiver relieved the requirements to use summer blend fuel, and expired on September 15, which was the end for the high ozone season. Additionally, a blending waiver was signed, which was effective immediately and continues through October 1.  

Georgia: The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is currently operating their State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at Level 3 (Actively Monitoring Operations). EPA Region 4 continues to maintain communication with the State to provide support at the ESF-10 Desk in the SEOC, as needed. 

  • EPA has not received a request for assistance from the State. 
  • EPA field teams are scheduled for deployment this week to begin the post-storm field assessments for Superfund NPL Sites in GA and SC. 
  • On September 12, 2018, EPA  Acting Administrator Wheeler signed a fuel waiver for Georgia. EPA has waived the federal Reid vapor pressure requirements for fuel sold in designated areas in Georgia to minimize problems with the supply of gasoline. This waiver expired on September 15, 2018, which was the end of the summer fuel season. EPA has also waived the prohibition on the blending of reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygenated blending with other gasoline, blendstock or oxygenate in Georgia. These waivers are effective through September 30, 2018. 
  • On September 13, 2018, EPA granted a request from the State of Georgia to revise its September 12th emergency fuel waiver to allow the sale and distribution of gasoline with a Reid vapor pressure of up to 11.5 pounds per square inch before the addition of any ethanol. EPA granted this revised temporary waiver to help ensure that an adequate supply of gasoline was available in the State of Georgia until normal supply to the region could be restored. This revised waiver expired on September 15, 2018, which was the end of the high ozone season. All other provisions of the September 12 waiver remain unchanged.  

Region 4 Federally Recognized Tribes: Region 4 continues to coordinate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.   

  • Catawba Indian Nation, Rock Hill, SC: The Catawba Indian Nation is currently operating at OPCON 2 (partial activation) and is preparing for the likelihood of impacts from Hurricane Florence. 
  • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Cherokee, NC: The State of Emergency issued September 14, remains in effect. The EBCI EOC remains partially activated and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma continues to work with the ECBI on addressing potential impacts from the storm.

ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS   

  • EPA has waived the federal Reid vapor pressure requirements for fuel sold in designated areas in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia to minimize problems with the supply of gasoline. EPA has also waived in these same states the prohibition on the blending of reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygenated blending with other gasoline blendstock or oxygenate. EPA intends these waivers to assist in distributing fuel needed for voluntary and mandatory evacuations. Additionally, EPA has waived the highway diesel fuel red dye requirements to allow the sale and use of non-road diesel fuel in highway vehicles in North Carolina.
  • EPA has issued no action assurances as requested by North Carolina, and South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia to help avoid delays in fuel distribution. EPA policy allows the Agency to issue no action assurances in cases where it is necessary to avoid extreme risks to public health and safety and where no other mechanism can adequately address the matter. Under these no action assurances, EPA will not pursue enforcement actions against tanker trucks under air quality regulations governing the testing for tank tightness and associated documentation.
  • In addition, it is expected that damage from the storm and/or power outages could impact the vapor recovery systems at fuel loading facilities. To address this concern, EPA has issued two no action assurances as requested by Virginia and North Carolina regarding the loading and unloading of fuel at bulk gasoline terminals, pipeline breakout stations, marine tank vessel loading operations, and gasoline loading racks. Pursuant to these no action assurances and the conditions contained in them, EPA will not pursue enforcement actions for violations of the Clean Air Act vapor recovery requirements for these fuel loading and unloading operations in those states.

REGION 4 SUPERFUND SITES, OIL SITES, AND OTHER FACILITIES 

  • The EPA Oil Program contacted 25 coastal North Carolina and South Carolina Facility Response Plan facilities to assess readiness and verify contacts for post-storm assessments. 
  • EPA Region 4 is coordinating with North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia on the status of Superfund sites in their states, as well as a total number of Risk Management Plan facilities, Federal Response Plan facilities, drinking water systems, and wastewater treatment systems to help them as they prepare their response plans. 
  • As EPA Region 4 moves into the recovery phase of our response to Hurricane Florence, EPA’s Region 4 Superfund Division will coordinate post landfall assessments of National Priorities List (NPL) and NPL Caliber Superfund sites impacted by the storm.
  • In collaboration with our state partners and once conditions allow, EPA will deploy Superfund Reconnaissance Teams to conduct visual inspections of affected sites which will: 
    • Document visual damage and/or potential migration of contaminants; 
    • Document site conditions at the point of entry and exit;  
    • Document restoration of utilities (if applicable); and 
    • Complete the field survey check-list and photo(s). 

The list of inspected sites will be updated daily for the media. 

For more information please visit: https://response.epa.gov/florence