By Keith Glenn
Fourth installment on our Emergency Response series.
Prior to the first drop of water or wind gust reaching New York or New Jersey from Hurricane Irene, EPA had deployed personnel to critical emergency management locations lead by the state and local offices of emergency management. EPA on-scene coordinators rode out the storms in Trenton, Brooklyn and Albany to commence the development of post-storm response and recovery strategies. Following the Emergency Declaration by President Obama, EPA began to receive mission assignments from FEMA to conduct rapid needs assessments throughout the impact areas, facilitate a program for the collection of household hazardous waste, coordinate debris removal programs with other government agencies, provide inspections of critical water infrastructures, and retrieve orphan containers containing oil and hazardous substances.
Within a few hours of receiving mission assignments, EPA teams were deployed to the field with concentrations in Greene, Delaware, Schoharie, and Essex Counties in New York and Passaic, Morris, and Bergen Counties in New Jersey. As the early days progressed, hazardous waste collection stations were established, curbside collection of household hazardous wastes occurred, boat operations for reconnaissance and recovery of orphan containers commenced, and aerial surveillance of debris lines began.
Just as efforts started to become manageable and routine, Tropical Storm Lee hit additional areas of New Jersey and New York, causing more damage in existing affected municipalities and creating new work areas. The process of meeting governing officials to establish a response and recovery effort resurged and additional emergency personnel were deployed to Broome, Tioga, and Chenango Counties in NY and in Sussex County, NJ. At the peak of operations, over 160 EPA and contractor personnel were involved. More