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TCEQ/EPA: updated status of systems affected by Hurricane Harvey

Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 - More water systems online, air monitoring fully operational
ContactAndrea Morrow
After Hrs

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.

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, Oct. 6, the following information is available:

Drinking Water: To date, about 2,238 drinking water systems have been affected by Harvey. Of those: 39 have boil-water notices, and two are shut down. 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 1,743 wastewater treatment plants in the 58 counties within the Governor’s Disaster Declaration. Of those, seven 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.

On Sept. 25, 2017, the EPA provided written explanation to FEMA allowing proceeds from State Revolving Loan Funds to be used to address immediate recovery and future resiliency efforts in Texas. EPA is also reviewing a Texas Water Development Board's request that certain water infrastructure projects be exempt from American Iron and Steel requirements. The public interest waiver request from the TWDB is posted for the required 15-day public comment period Exit the TCEQ which closes Oct. 13, 2017.

Critical Water Infrastructure: The TCEQ has made contact with the owners of the 340 dams in the impacted areas. There are 17 dams that have reported some type of damage; four of these dams failed. 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. Post-hurricane summaries and quality assured data reports data are online Exit the TCEQ.

    The San Jacinto River Waste Pits site requires additional follow up. EPA received preliminary data from sediment samples collected by EPA’s dive team from fourteen areas at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site. Samples from one of the fourteen areas confirmed the protective cap had been damaged and the underlying waste material was exposed. The sample showed dioxins above 70,000 ng/kg. EPA recommended clean up level for the site is 30 ng/kg. Repairs to add armored rock to the cap was completed shortly after the sampling was conducted. All repairs are complete. EPA has directed the potentially responsible parties to collect an additional 7 samples near the damaged area and sampling should be completed this week. Sample results will be available in about 2 weeks.

    The EPA press release Exit the TCEQ is available. EPA has also posted quality assured data collected by the potentially responsible parties on the website.
  • Debris Management: The TCEQ has approved 178 Temporary Debris Management Sites in areas under the Federal or State Disaster Declaration designations. View a map of all Temporary Debris Management Sites.

    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. EPA has participated in over 261 joint site observations and expects to conclude its activities next week. EPA observers have reported that TCEQ is providing onsite compliance assistance and follow up visits to confirm compliance with permits. TCEQ plans to conduct site visits as long as approved debris staging areas are processing debris and transferring debris to landfills. The EPA field observers have completed their assignment of assisting TCEQ in conducting the site observations. Future site observations have been transitioned to the state. EPA Community Liaisons have completed their assignment to provide federal and state guidance and best practices to thousands of individuals that are dealing with potential hazards in damaged or lost homes. The TCEQ and EPA released Handling Debris during Natural Disasters fact sheets in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
  • Reconnaissance/Orphan Containers: The TCEQ continues to lead in monitoring facilities that have reported spills. Unified Command has completed initial hazmat reconnaissance and recovery 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 more than 1,088 orphan containers. 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. As of Friday, Sept. 29 the TCEQ’s air monitoring network is 100 percent operational. Of the available air monitoring data collected from Aug. 24 through Oct. 6, all measured concentrations were well below levels of health concern.

    Summary information is available at www.epa.gov/hurricane-harvey Exit the TCEQ and www.tceq.texas.gov/response/hurricanes.

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

View the EPA Story Map Exit the TCEQ about Hurricane Harvey Response activities.