EPA Prepares the Public for the 2019 Hurricane Season by Focusing on Waste Mitigation

News Release, US Environmental Protection Agency

WASHINGTON (June 7, 2019) — The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and ends November 30. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is calling on the public to prepare now for natural disasters to aid recovery efforts.

“EPA’s response to natural disasters is one of the many ways that we protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We want to inform the public of how they can prepare for hurricane season and help protect their communities, the environment, and first responders by mitigating hazardous waste and securing potential harmful debris before storms strike.”

Debris and household hazardous waste management is always challenging during natural disasters and has a great impact on public safety. Based on the 2017 and 2018 responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Florence, EPA responders were in the field during the aftermath of the hurricanes and managed a tremendous amount of waste as part of the recovery efforts, including:

  • About 470,100 containers (drums, oil containers, propane tanks) recovered.
  • Approximately 2,900 vessels recovered or closed.

Residents can help protect their communities, the environment, and the dedicated personnel who respond to hurricanes in order to help communities recover by making sure items such as propane tanks and paint cans are secured prior to a hurricane.

As a reminder, facility operators have certain requirements that call for preventing, minimizing and reporting chemical releases.  Facility operators have an obligation to operate facilities safely, minimize releases that do occur, and report chemical releases in a timely manner.

Unlike some natural disasters, the onset of a hurricane is predictable and allows for early preparations to lessen its effect on a facility. Before hurricane force winds and associated storm surge flooding damage industrial processes, operators can take preventive action by safely shutting down processes, place hazardous chemicals in safe storage locations, or otherwise operate safely under appropriate emergency procedures. If a chemical release does occur, operators should notify appropriate authorities immediately so that a proper response can be carried out.

On June 4, 2019, EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that streamlines coordination between FEMA and the EPA-funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs so that funding to restore vital water infrastructure can be provided as quickly as possible in times of disaster. In disaster situations where cash reserves are stretched thin, the EPA-FEMA MOU provides a tribe or local government access to a no-interest or low-interest loan from its SRF to help pay for the immediate restoration of vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

As part of its mission, the EPA is responsible for responding to natural disasters; chemical, biological, and radiological releases; oil spills; and nationally significant emergencies. EPA partners with other federal agencies and state, tribal and local governments to respond to environmental and human health risks associated with hurricanes and other natural disasters.

For more information on hurricanes, visit https://www.epa.gov/natural-disasters/hurricanes.

For more information on EPA’s emergency response program, visit https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response.

For more information on EPA and FEMA’s MOU, visit https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-signs-mou-fema-support-rapid-recovery-and-restoration-water-infrastructure-after

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