EPA at 50: Emergency management and recovery to protect our nation

by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

DALLAS (Sept. 1, 2020) — This week, as part of its 50th anniversary commemoration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management and Office of Homeland Security are highlighting the agency’s role in preparing, responding, preventing, and mitigating natural and manmade disasters. The agency provides emergency response support to state, local, and tribal entities when necessary, under its National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan (NCP) authority and responsibilities, which are shared with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Over the last 50 years, EPA has had an integral role in protecting the American public from both manmade and natural disasters,” said Assistant Administrator Peter Wright. “Currently, EPA is assisting the federal government’s coordinated response to Hurricane Laura to help communities in Louisiana. The public can count on the agency to effectively respond to impacted communities through efforts such as drinking water and wastewater assessments, air monitoring, hazardous site evaluations, as well as providing specialized support for recovery."

Currently, EPA is assisting in recovery efforts related to Hurricane Laura, including assessing conditions at National Priorities List Superfund sites along the path of the storm. EPA deployed the Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) aircraft flights to conduct air monitoring in impacted areas and has used the Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer unit on site to conduct air monitoring in the impacted areas. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, EPA has deployed Subject Matter Experts for water and wastewater to assist with assessments in southwest Louisiana. We have also ensured that our Environmental Justice and Tribal communities in the path of the storms have been kept updated and informed of all activities. Hurricane Laura information can be found at https://response.epa.gov/hurricanelaura

EPA addresses environmental emergencies through laws such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is more commonly known as Superfund, presidential directives, national frameworks, and a series of statutes. The agency’s emergency management support is led in the field by on-scene coordinators (OSCs) who assess, monitor, and evaluate activities during and after a response. Over the past 50 years, EPA has responded to a number of chemical, radiological, biological releases, oil spills, and manmade and natural disasters. EPA has responded and helped communities in the recovery from events such as the Exxon Valdez tanker spill, 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina, major hurricanes, wildfires, and the Deepwater Horizon incident.
When requested by its partners, EPA also responds to localized events such as rail car and tanker rollovers, leaking abandoned drums, and water supply contamination issues, in addition to nationally significant events.

In the aftermath of an event, EPA supports the immediate and long-term recovery work in communities impacted by disasters. The agency focuses on recovery operations by:

• assisting partners with planning and preparedness before disasters;

• responding to any disaster caused releases;

• assessing and if necessary, responding to the condition of regulated chemical, waste management and cleanup sites;

• helping communities rebuild in ways that protect the environment, create economic prosperity, and be better prepared for the next disaster. Working with federal partners to collaborate on issues related to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, brownfields, air quality, or oil and hazardous materials clean up;

• collaborating with other agencies to streamline federal oversight related to permitting and/or enforcement requirements; and

• partnering with environmental justice communities so that pertinent issues can be addressed in recovery operations and planning.

This week, EPA will recognize the history, accomplishments, and benefits of the emergency response and homeland security programs by posting a variety of content on Twitter @EPALand and @EPA.

For more information of EPA’s emergency respons efforts, please visit https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response.

For more information on EPA’s homeland security efforts, please visit https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security.

For more on EPA’s 50th Anniversary and how the agency is protecting America’s waters, land and air, visit: https://www.epa.gov/50, or follow the agency on social media using #EPAat50.