. "2 Hurricane Katrina: Challenges, Concerns, Policies, and Needs." Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina, Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
on where the sampling occurred, a number of other chemicals, such as arsenic and petroleum products, were found. Approximately 1,300 people (EPA contractors and personnel) helped to research, evaluate, and process the obtained information. By October 2005, about 80 percent to 85 percent of the drinking water systems and wastewater treatment systems were fully operational. However, 10 percent to 15 percent of the drinking water systems throughout the area were still either under boiled water advisories or not operating at all. Throughout the fall of 2005, infrastructure issues remained critical.
A secondary concern, once the floodwaters were pumped, was the soil sediment. EPA has collected 423 sediment samples; over 300 have been analyzed and validated and the information made available to the public (EPA, 2005b). The sediment samples revealed high levels of bacteria; a variety of other chemicals, such as petroleum-based products, ranging from fuel oil to volatile organic compounds; and an assortment of other compounds. In St. Bernard Parish, Murphy oil field was one of the five major oil spills that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. The force of the storm was so great that it picked up one of the storage tanks (with a capacity of about 250,000 barrels of oil), ripped it off the concrete pad, and moved the tank over, causing all the oil to spill into the water and the surrounding community. In total, there were four other major spills throughout the Gulf Coast, totaling approximately 1 million gallons of oil spilled.
At the same time, EPA’s concern about the air quality in the region was a challenge for the agency. Although EPA has stationary monitors throughout the country, most of the monitors in the Gulf Coast were damaged or destroyed during the initial disaster. To gather data, EPA used a very sophisticated aircraft called ASPECT (airborne spectral photometric environmental collection technology), which provides screening-level data. ASPECT can take both regular and infrared photographs, and it has the ability to detect radiation and a broad range of chemicals at the parts-per-million level. This technology allows for precise detection across a region; for example, it detected the presence of chloroacetic acid, and after the recovery team went to the site, it found a single barrel labeled as containing chloroacetic acid. In addition to ASPECT, EPA deployed TAGA (trace atmospheric gas analyzer) vans that have the capability of performing air monitoring. The testing of air quality continued through the fall of 2005 to monitor a variety of air pollutants, such as ozone, particulate matter, asbestos, and volatile organic compounds.
Another of EPA’s concerns was Superfund sites, some of which are in New Orleans and one of which was flooded. There are 54 Superfund sites in the impacted area. Some of them have been closed and corrected, some of them are still active, and some of those sites may have been compromised. As of October 20, 2005, EPA had visually inspected all of the sites and found no apparent problems. Sampling has been conducted at 10 sites in Louisiana, 3 sites in Mississippi, 6 sites in Alabama, and 12 sites in Texas, and sampling is ongoing at other sites. The sampling results were not available at the time of the workshop but will be