Around the Water Cooler: Cleaning Up After Extreme Events

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Weeks after Hurricane Sandy hammered the East Coast, many communities, especially in New York and New Jersey, were still trying to get back to normal life. Floodwaters rushed into houses, especially those in low-lying areas, taking with it memories while adding a toxic mess to many people’s possessions.

Extreme weather events, including hurricanes like Sandy and wildfires like those that have ravaged the west the last few summers, bring risk of contamination. Sediment, sewer waters, industrial chemicals and other materials in our water and air are just a few of the problems that can occur from extreme weather events and other disasters.

But cleanup after these events can be done in a way that will lessen the risks associated with handling hazardous materials. EPA researchers have developed a web based tool called I-Waste, specifically to assist with clean-up from man-made or natural disasters. Originally developed to support clean-up activities after an anthrax contamination, I-Waste is a flexible, web-based platform that provides real-time waste management options available to local officials and emergency responders when and where they need it.

The system can provide real-time critical information, such as the types and volumes of potential contaminants, and the location and contact information for disposal and treatment facilities in the area. I-Waste also provides health and safety information to ensure public and worker safety during the removal, transport, treatment and disposal of contaminated waste and debris.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources and Homeland Security Research teams and is a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.