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EPA/TCEQ: updated status of systems affected by Harvey

Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 - Air quality improving, number of water systems operational increasing in affected areas.
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Working together, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality continue to coordinate with local, state and federal officials to address the human health and environmental impacts of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, especially the water systems in the affected areas. The TCEQ has approximately 500 people and EPA has 192 people assisting in response to this natural disaster.

As part of this coordination, a Unified Command was established between the EPA, the TCEQ, the General Land Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard to oversee all emergency response efforts. This Unified Command is supported by three operational branches in Corpus Christi, Houston, and Port Arthur. In addition to the EPA, the TCEQ, the GLO, and the USCG, multiple agencies and groups are supporting each of the operational branches, including the Texas National Guard, 6th Civil Support Team; the Arkansas National Guard, 61st Civil Support Team; the Oklahoma Task Force 1; and the Texas State Guard Engineering Group. Branch personnel are working to continuously monitor water and wastewater systems, as well as assess spills or discharges as a result of the storm.

As of Friday, Sept 22, the following information is available:

Drinking Water: To date, about 2,238 drinking water systems have been affected by Harvey. Of those: 2,014 systems are fully operational, 48 have boil-water notices, and 5 are shut down. Both the EPA and the TCEQ are contacting remaining systems to gather updated information on their status. Assistance teams are in the field working directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.

Wastewater and Sewage: The TCEQ has made contact with 1,219 wastewater treatment plants in the 58 counties within the Governor’s Disaster Declaration. Of those, 9 are inoperable in the affected counties. The agencies are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers are occurring as a result of the historic flooding and are actively working to monitor facilities that have reported spills. Additionally, the agencies are conducting outreach and providing technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas. Assistance teams will continue to be deployed to work directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.

The EPA continues to work with Texas Water Development Board and FEMA to identify opportunities to utilize State Revolving Funds from the EPA to address immediate recovery and future resiliency efforts in Texas.

Flood Water: Water quality sampling will be focused on industrial facilities and hazardous waste sites. Floodwaters contain many hazards, including bacteria and other contaminants. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters. These precautions include heeding all warnings from local and state authorities regarding safety advisories. In addition to the drowning hazards of wading, swimming, or driving in swift floodwaters, these waters can carry large objects that are not always readily visible that can cause injuries to those in the water. Other potential hazards include downed power lines and possible injuries inflicted by animals displaced by the floodwaters.

Critical Water Infrastructure: The TCEQ has made contact with the owners of the 340 dams in the impacted areas. There are 15 dams that have reported some type of damage. There have been no reports of downstream damage or loss of life.

Additional EPA/TCEQ updates include:

  • Superfund Sites: The EPA and the TCEQ continue to get updates about the status of specific sites from the parties responsible for ongoing cleanup of the sites. The TCEQ has completed the assessment of all 17 state Superfund sites in the affected area. There were no major issues noted. The TCEQ will continue to monitor sites to ensure no further action is needed in regards to the storm.

    All 43 Superfund NPL sites in the hurricane-affected area have been assessed. Of these, 42 sites have been cleared. The San Jacinto Waste Pits site requires additional follow-up. The Responsible Parties are continuing cap repairs and maintenance activities under EPA oversight. The repair includes manual placement of armor rock that is placed on a pontoon and positioned over the deficient areas. The work is focused on the northwest corner of the temporary cap where the EPA dive team conducted sampling. All work is being conducted in accordance with the approved work plan and under EPA oversight. Post-hurricane Superfund site summaries based on preliminary data results are being published (www.epa.gov/hurricane-harveyExit the TCEQ) and quality assured data should be available in about two weeks.
  • Debris Management: The TCEQ and the EPA released Handling Debris during Natural Disasters fact sheets in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. EPA Community Liaisons have been deployed across the Hurricane Harvey impacted area to provide federal and state guidance and best practices to thousands of individuals in that area dealing with potential hazards in damaged or lost homes. The TCEQ has approved 166 Temporary Debris Management Sites in areas under the Federal or State Disaster Declaration designations. TCEQ regional offices and local authorities are actively overseeing the siting and implementation of debris and waste management plans in the affected area. The EPA, the TCEQ, and Army Corps of Engineer field observers are visiting staging and landfills to ensure compliance with guidelines.View a map of all Temporary Debris Management SitesExit the TCEQ.
  • Reconnaissance/Orphan Containers: The TCEQ continues to lead in monitoring facilities that have reported spills. Unified Command has completed reconnaissance activities associated with hurricane impacts. Orphan containers, which include drums and tanks, found floating in or washed up near waterways continue to be gathered, sorted and grouped by type, prior to shipping them off for safe, proper treatment and disposal. All branches of the Unified Command have collected over 980 orphan containers. The Unified Command is preparing collected oil and hazardous materials for proper disposal. Disposal should be completed within the next three weeks. USCG and Texas General Land Office will continue to complete Vessel Recovery activities.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: One of the many preparations for Hurricane Harvey included the EPA, the TCEQ, and other monitoring entities temporarily shutting down several air monitoring stations from the greater Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont areas to protect valuable equipment from storm damage. Since then, state and local authorities have been working to get the systems up and running again as soon as possible. As of Friday, Sept 22, the TCEQ’s air monitoring network is operational 100 percent in Corpus Christi, 96 percent in Houston, and 86 percent in Beaumont. The TCEQ is working to get the complete network fully operational as soon as possible and we will notify the public when the 3 remaining monitors are online. Of the available air monitoring data collected from Aug. 24 through Sept. 21, all measured concentrations were well below levels of health concern.

    Both TCEQ and EPA investigators have spent numerous hours, both day and night, monitoring neighborhoods and industrial fence lines with hand-held instruments, such as optical gas imaging cameras (OGIC), toxic vapor analyzers, summa canisters, and portable multi-gas monitors. The use of these tools allows for the most effective source identification for drifting volatile organic compound (VOC) plumes so that swift action can be taken to address the cause of these emissions. TCEQ investigators in the Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont regional offices routinely conduct reconnaissance monitoring near industrial fence lines and adjacent communities. Reconnaissance monitoring has been conducted in these areas with increased frequency to identify potential emission sources. In furthering efforts to monitor storm-impacted areas and address emission sources, the TCEQ conducted aerial surveys in the Houston and Beaumont areas using a helicopter equipped with an OGIC that can image VOCs and other hydrocarbons invisible to the eye and the EPA’s Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) plane conducted real-time sampling of potential emission targets. ASPECT completed flyovers of the facilities impacted by the hurricane on Sept. 11, 2017. The EPA completed air quality analyses using their Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA) mobile monitoring system on Sept. 20, 2017. The TAGA conducted monitoring in Houston (9/5-7 and 9/10-12); Deer Park (9/14); Baytown (9/15); Sweeny and Texas City (9/17); Beaumont, Port Arthur, Victoria, and Point Comfort (9/18); and Corpus Christi (9/19-20). The results from continuous air monitors, hand-held instruments, ASPECT and TAGA have shown no levels of immediate health concern, and summary information is available on www.epa.gov/hurricane-harveyExit the TCEQ.
  • Refineries/Fuel Waivers: The EPA approved the request from the State of Texas to continue to waive requirements for fuels in Texas to help address the emergency circumstances in Texas from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The waiver is for reformulated gasoline (including gasoline blendstock for oxygenate blending) and low volatility gasoline in Texas, and also continues the previous waived requirement to use Texas Low Emission Diesel (TxLED) in 110 counties in Texas. This waiver is effective immediately and will continue through Oct. 1, 2017.
  • No Action Assurance: The EPA issued a No Action Assurance (NAA) for the import of 255 power generators by the Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. (Yamaha), to be donated for use in communities impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, to assist in recovery efforts.

On Sept. 1, the EPA announced that it would exercise enforcement discretion for petroleum distribution facilities, gasoline storage facilities and bulk fuel terminals in Texas that had been impacted or damaged by Hurricane Harvey. This has been extended through Sept. 29, 2017.

For additional information, please visit the TCEQ's Hurricane Response website.

View the EPA Story MapExit the TCEQ about Hurricane Harvey Response activities.