EPA emergency response

EPA Rides to the Rescue: An Overview of Operations

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

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CAPECO) Response, Two Years Later

An aerial shot of the facility the night of the explosions, 10/23/09

By Mark Gallo 

On October 23, 2009 at approximately 12:30 a.m., residents of the San Juan area of Puerto Rico either observed or were awakened by the fire and explosions that rocked their area (see “Fire in the Sky”, October 2009). If you ask residents where they were that night, the majority remember it like it was yesterday. 

Working as an EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC), you expect that on some days you will wake up and find yourself in the middle of chaos. One of those days for me was at the CAPECO response, an emergency response action to a fire/explosion of a major petroleum oil storage facility in Bayamon, PR. It was four days after the initial explosion when I received the call to support five other EPA OSCs already on site, one from the EPA San Juan Office and four from our EPA Edison office. I “had” a nice weekend planned, but duty calls, my flight was booked, and I found myself waking up to chaos the following day. To quote a co-worker’s response, “There’s oil EVERYWHERE!” This facility had approximately 60 million (M) gallons on site during the incident and approximately 30M gallons either consumed in the fire or released to the environment. The remaining oil was in tanks with questionable integrity! 

When I arrived, the OSCs were coordinating with at least a dozen agencies, establishing an Incident Command Structure, staffing and organizing the Incident Management Team, directing clean-up contractors, ordering resources, and working logistics and plans for the coming hours, as that was how quickly conditions changed during the initial days of the response. The 24/7 operation continued well into late November of 2009, when there was some sense of security in reducing operational hours. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Community’s Calm, A Mother’s Fury

By David Kluesner 

Pompton Lakes: slammed consecutively by Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee

Late August and early September usually epitomize the lazy days of doing nothing or heading to the beach, barbecues and family get-togethers over Labor Day.  Not this summer. Not for North Jersey after Hurricane Irene hit and then a sucker punch landed in the form of Tropical Storm Lee.  Mother Nature attacked furiously on August 28, sending the waters of the Ramapo, Passaic and Pequannock Rivers over their banks to record levels.  All the networks and CNN carried as their top story a flooded home ablaze in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, where firefighters had to swim to the house to respond. 

Pompton Lakes is a community I know so well through my work on the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site cleanup.  I was part of an EPA team deployed to help with the U.S. government’s response and recovery efforts.  FEMA’s mission assignment for us was to collect household hazardous waste, retrieve displaced drums and containers of hazardous chemicals, and to help residents remove oils and chemicals from their flooded basements.  Paterson, Lake Hiawatha, Wayne, Pompton Lakes and so many other North Jersey communities calmly, with strength and resolve, rose to the challenge to respond, unite, once again, to rebuild and move on.  More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Kicking off Emergency Response Week

Welcome to Emergency Response Week at Greening the Apple! We are thrilled to be able to highlight the work of our On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) and Community Involvement Coordinators who work on the ground in communities while emergencies are happening. All week we are going to be featuring some of the hard working people from our region who have responded to a variety of emergencies from 9/11 to an oil refinery explosion in Puerto Rico. During the recent flooding from Hurricane Irene, we caught up with Christopher Jimenez and he gave us a few minutes of his precious time to describe his work.

[flv width=”360″ height=”240″]http://www.epa.gov/region02/mediacenter/video/anosccoordinator.flv[/flv]

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Inside Insight: Cultural Clues from a New Yorker in St. Croix

By Natalie Loney

One can never underestimate the power of a strong voice. It can be clear like a bell with the right timbre and resonance, or booming and vibrant like a bass drum. Either way, the power of my own voice was tested on a recent trip to St. Croix, USVI.

I was in St. Croix in support of EPA’s emergency response to an air release from the HOVENSA refinery. Part of my responsibilities included going door to door in impacted areas to talk to residents about our sampling results. So, with the support of local Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) reps, our team set out to reach out to residents. I was comfortable with this task, I’ve done community outreach countless times before. Walk up to the door, ring the bell, wait for someone to answer, then, start your mini-presentation, simple, right? Wrong! First of all, you can’t just walk up to someone’s door. Most of the residents’ homes were set back from the road behind a fenced or sometimes walled lot. My DPNR colleague pointed out that opening someone’s gate and entering their property without permission would be seen as improper. I definitely didn’t want to introduce myself to a resident by insulting them. What to do? More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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