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Administrator Johnson's Remarks at Joint EPA and CDC Press Conference on Preliminary Floodwater Samples from New Orleans

09/07/2005
    Thank you for coming today. I am pleased to be joined by Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control.

    EPA has completed preliminary flood water sampling in the New Orleans area. Our initial findings indicate that counts for E. coli and colliform bacteria in the tested areas greatly exceed EPA’s recommended levels for contact. Human contact with the flood water should be avoided as much as possible.

    These initial results represent the beginning of our extensive sampling efforts and may not necessarily represent the condition of all flood waters throughout the area. As you know, this is a dynamic situation and water quality conditions may change as the flood waters recede.

    We also tested for over one hundred chemical compounds – including items such as pesticides and metals. Our testing found that the lead concentrations in the flood water samples exceeded what EPA considers safe for drinking water levels. These levels are of greatest concern for children. This may seem obvious, no one should drink the flood water, especially children.

    We are continuing to do daily water sampling and will update the public as results are available. To date, our testing has focused on heavily populated residential neighborhoods and not in industrialized areas. We are taking more samples, from more areas every day.

    I want to be very clear. Emergency response personnel and the public should avoid direct contact with any flood water as much as possible. If you should come in contact with the water, we strongly advise you to use soap and water to clean ALL exposed areas. I recognize that these are extraordinary circumstances where clean water, disinfectant soap and medical personnel may not always be available. Please take as many precautions as you can.

    We will do everything we can to get the public and emergency personnel the most accurate environmental information as quickly as we can.

    This is a challenging time and we are committed to helping the citizens of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama restore their communities.