Hexavalent chromium, lead and arsenic found in flood waters
September 15, 2005
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its daily update on Hurricane Katrina flood water sampling data for chemicals.
Flood Water Analysis — On 9/14, in coordination with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, EPA posted flood water sampling data for chemicals from 9/4-6. The data has been reviewed and validated through a quality assurance process to ensure scientific accuracy. Hexavalent chromium and arsenic, in addition to lead which was previously detected on 9/3, were detected at levels which exceeded EPA drinking water standards. These compounds would pose a risk to children only if a child were to drink a liter of flood water a day. Long-term exposure (a year or longer) to arsenic would be required before health effects would be expected to occur. Thallium was detected at one sampling location and while levels are slightly elevated, they are 10 times lower than levels at which there would be a health effect.
The 9/5 data is currently undergoing review and validation. The data will be released once this process is complete.
Flood water sampling data for biological pathogens from 9/6-10 have also been posted for public review. E. coli levels are still greatly elevated and remain much higher than EPA’s recommended levels for contact. The public and emergency responders should continue to avoid contact with flood water when possible. If contact occurs, EPA strongly advises the use of soap and water to clean areas if available.
Response to Oil Spills — There have been 5 major oil spills in the New Orleans area to date. EPA continues to assess the situations as it becomes aware. On 9/12, EPA sampling teams collected 3 sediment environmental samples and the Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA) bus conducted air sampling at the Murphy oil spill area.
Drinking Water Assessment EPA continues assessment of damage to local drinking systems and providing technical assistance to help restore service in AL, MS, and LA. Many systems were disabled or impaired by loss of electrical power, and some are now operating under boiled water notices. In Louisiana, EPA sent teams to conduct drinking water assessments and provide technical assistance. To date, they have conducted 28 drinking water assessments and provided technical assistance at 14 public water systems. A total of 476 systems have been logged to date. In Mississippi and Alabama, EPA is providing technical assistance to states and localities as well as conducting resource needs analyses. The total number of systems that remain under a boil water advisory, are not operating, or are awaiting further information is estimated to be: 1 in AL, 391 in MS, and 281 in southeastern in LA. EPA has 2 mobile laboratories in MS and 2 in LA.
This release is adapted from EPA Hurricane Katrina Response Activity – September 14.