[StBernard] Louisiana Hurricane Sediments Judged Not Harmful to Health

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Fri Aug 25 21:34:49 EDT 2006

Louisiana Hurricane Sediments Judged Not Harmful to Health

WASHINGTON, DC, August 24, 2006 (ENS) -

More than 1,800 samples of soil and sediment left after Hurricane Katrina
floodwaters show that, in general, the sediments left behind by the flooding
are not expected to cause adverse health impacts to people returning to New
Orleans, according to a final report by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA).

After Hurricane Katrina came ashore on the Louisiana Gulf Coast August 29,
2005, the EPA and its federal and state partners conducted an investigation
to characterize any potential environmental effects to the parishes that
were flooded by up to 10 feet of water from Lake Pontchartrain and the
Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico outlet.

Since early September 2005, EPA has collected some 1,800 sediment and soil
samples in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes in four
discrete phases. Most of these samples were analyzed for over 200 metals and
organic chemicals.

Extensive sediment and soil sampling in response to Hurricane Katrina is
complete, the EPA announced on August 17. The data and associated analysis
will serve as the basis for a series of recommendations and advisories
provided by local government.

As each phase of sampling was completed, the results were compared to
conservative health-based screening levels for residential exposure
developed by the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality

Summaries and general assessments of the data were developed by the EPA and
LDEQ with input from the Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, the Louisiana Department of Health and
Hospitals, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A few localized areas were re-assessed due to elevated levels of arsenic,
lead, benzo(a)pyrene, and diesel and oil range organic petroleum chemicals.

The results of these re-assessments indicated that the highest
concentrations of arsenic were likely associated with herbicides used at or
near golf courses, which the EPA said were likely from the use of herbicides
containing arsenic.

The hazardous chemical benzo(a)pyrene was found in a small section of the
Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site and will be addressed as the
Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) finalizes its plans for badly
damaged townhomes in the area.

The EPA has contacted the property owners and managers, as well as HANO
regarding the benzo(a)pyrene results from EPA's sampling. The townhomes
located in this isolated area of the site were heavily damaged by flooding
and wind.

EPA will work with HANO to ensure that future plans to address the damaged
properties will also address contamination found by the EPA sampling. EPA
will provide a closeout report when HANO announces specific plans for the

Petroleum chemicals associated with oil and diesel fuel were found in
concentrations above the Louisiana RECAP values in approximately 150 samples
collected during all the phases of sediment sampling, excluding the Murphy
Oil spill.

The New Orleans Health Department and the state of Louisiana have provided
general guidance and precautions for returning residents regarding the
diesel and oil range organic chemicals detected.

They suggest that residents should till sediment into existing soil,
re-establish and maintain grass and flower beds, remove sediment from
driveways and walkways to help minimize wind-blown dust, and minimize dirt
and dust inside homes.

Diesel and oil range organic hydrocarbon concentrations are expected to
decrease over time through a combination of natural degradation and sediment
displacement or removal, the EPA said. Future sampling will be conducted to
ensure that the concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons do, in fact,

Finally, the EPA found elevated levels of lead in some samples, but said
these levels predate the hurricanes of 2005.

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