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Hurricane-Impacted Louisiana Schools Get Help from Environmental Responders

Release Date: 1/18/2006
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

For more information, contact Cynthia Fanning (EPA), 504-731-8680 or Russ Tippets (USCG),
252-267-4344 or Darin Mann (DEQ), 225-219-0860

     Metairie, La. - School chemistry and biology laboratories in southern Louisiana with chemicals damaged by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita are being helped by environmental responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.  Where flooding or power outages have damaged potentially hazardous chemicals, responders evaluate them and, if necessary, safely remove and dispose of them.

     "Keeping schools safe for kids is an important part of Louisiana's recovery," Anthony Barber, director of the school assessment group, said.  "When families come back, things really start returning to normal.  We're glad to be helping that happen."

     School laboratories generally contain such chemicals as reactive metals, strong acids and bases and solvents, used for experiments.  Damaged containers may leak, exposing teachers and students to the chemicals and potentially causing reactions between incompatible materials.  

     "Our high schools and their science labs had moderate wind and rain damage," Paul Johnson, Director of Science Programs for the Terrebonne Parish School District, said.  "Our teachers were struggling to make up instructional time and didn't have enough time to assess damage to labs.  I was relieved to have someone come in and help assess the damage and remove the chemicals for us."

     Potentially hazardous chemicals have been removed from 59 of the 104 schools assessed so far.  Assessment activities will continue at about 400 more schools.  Schools may call the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality response notification hotline at 225-342-1234 to report damaged hazardous materials or to be added to the assessment list.

     The EPA, DEQ and U.S. Coast Guard are working together in a Unified Command to address hazardous materials under a mission assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The Unified Command has disposed more than 8 million pounds of waste and collected more than 1.5 million containers, extracted Freon from more than 238,000 white goods (such as refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners) and collected more than 126,000 pieces of electronic waste (such as TVs, computers and microwaves). We are recycling as much of this material as possible.

     Photographs showing a flood-damaged school and workers in action are available at http://epa.gov/region6/katrina/index.htm. For more information about the hurricane response efforts, please visit http://www.epa.gov/katrina/ or http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/.

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