Chapter Appendix B - What Went Right
Section Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with their partners in the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and other local officials to help remove hazardous household and other materials. They created a "curbside pickup" program to collect the materials from the houses, instead of making already overwhelmed victims deliver hazardous materials to another location.71 They also identified the potential hazards returning victims would face, and distributed information to people in affected areas regarding a range of hazards, from asbestos to septic systems.72 They collected and removed many hazardous materials, including electronics, batteries, computer hardware, paint, solvents, lawn and garden products. They enabled people to reestablish clean and safe environments in their houses and for their families. Without EPA assistance, this would not have occurred. Additionally, the EPA also waived national sulfur emissions standards for diesel fuel for a short period so that fuel produced for non-road uses could be legally used in highway vehicles.73
The success of the Incident Command System (ICS) was clearly demonstrated in Hancock County, considered to be the most devastated area within Mississippi. Carter Williamson led a team during the early stages of EPA's response effort to protect the citizens of Hancock County from releases of hazardous materials. Under adverse conditions, working sixteen-hour days every day, Mr. Williamson motivated the team members who were living under severe conditions, where basic support services such as electricity, shelter, running water, and telephones were, if available, very limited. In a demonstration of leadership, Carter remained in a variety of primitive shelters throughout the entire hurricane response, embedded with the team in the impacted community. His efforts resulted in the team's ability to provide more effective service and helped his team to empathize with the plight of the community. Whereas most other EPA employees rotated in and out of the work area on a two week basis, Mr. Williamson chose to remain in the community, despite having a wife and children back home, because he believed the consistency of leadership would be beneficial to the response effort. Although the magnitude of the task was overwhelming and the working conditions were poor, the quality of the response effort lead by Mr. Williamson was outstanding.
With Hurricane Katrina approaching, Nancy Jones was preparing to implement a Hurricane Debris Management Plan, like the one she had drafted for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) while participating in the "Hurricane Pam" planning workshops. Because of this experience, the USACE specifically requested that Ms. Jones be deployed to assist the USACE in handling the debris collection and segregation of the hazardous materials resulting from Hurricane Katrina. She was instrumental in setting up the collection and debris management plan in many of the eastern Parishes including the City of New Orleans. Her coordination with the USACE made the response to the hurricane more efficient and effective. The Parish Officials and the City of New Orleans have developed trust and respect for the EPA because of her efforts. Ms. Veronica White with the City of New Orleans sums up Nancy's efforts well. "She is excellent and thorough. She has answered every question we (the City of New Orleans) have had. If she didn't know the answer right off, she got back to us with a response very quickly." Ms. White asked that the EPA keep Ms. Jones on the project through completion. She stated that they did not want to lose her.