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Unified Command Continues To Make Great Strides in Aftermath of Hurricane Ike

Release Date: 10/23/2008
Contact Information: For more information contact Beth Totman at 646-369-0064, Dave Bary or Tressa Tillman at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov.

(Pasadena, TX - Oct. 23, 2008) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Texas General Land Office (TGLO) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have made great strides as the Unified Command in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. From the outset, the four agencies have been committed to identifying, assessing, and overseeing the cleanup of post-hurricane pollution hazards throughout southeast Texas.

“By tapping into the strengths and resources of the agencies that make up the Unified Command, we’ve been able to achieve a great deal in a limited time,” said Incident Commander Althea Foster. “Our mission is to ensure the environmental health and safety of affected communities. We are out in the field every day, doing just that.”

Through air, land and wetlands operations, the Unified Command has been able to reach the common goal of minimizing environmental impacts from the release of oil and hazardous materials. EPA’s ASPECT aircraft has been essential in pinpointing and targeting areas that were hard hit by the hurricane. Through the equipment in ASPECT, detailed chemical information on possible chemical releases can be safely obtained and quickly provided to first responders. In 15 flight missions, totaling 63 hours of flight time logged in the air, EPA’s ASPECT aircraft collected digital aerial photographs, infrared imagery and video. This information gave EPA a clear picture of storm-affected areas. Nearly 900 facilities, including chemical facilities, oil and fuel storage facilities, crude and gas collection and processing facilities, water treatment and wastewater facilities and other facilities falling under EPA jurisdiction, were assessed.

Unified Command ground operations identify and remove orphan drums and containers that may contain hazardous substances. Special attention is given to removal efforts in wetland areas, to ensure minimal impacts on these sensitive environments. More than 28,000 containers have been collected throughout southeastern coastal Texas. A toll-free hotline helps the communities affected by Hurricane Ike report orphan drums and containers. The communities’ assistance has been invaluable to the Unified Command and has helped speed recovery efforts.

The Unified Command has also visited over 1,500 wastewater and drinking water facilities to ensure each facility continues to function properly. In addition, more than 250 oil incidents have been assessed and responded to through ground and air patrols. The Unified Command has identified more than 4,600 “targets” for assessment and removal. Targets are defined as containers or debris lines.

The skills and strengths of each of the four agencies make the Unified Command a strong and effective force in hurricane recovery. Through reconnaissance work, assessments, containment and recovery, much has been accomplished, and the work carries on. For more information on the hurricane response, visit: http://www.epa.gov/hurricanes.

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