EPA Region IV Press Release

News for Release:  Wednesday, November 9, 2005

              U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

     EPA Releases Initial Results from Air Monitoring Networks in
                       Hurricane-Affected Areas

     Contact:  Eryn Witcher, 202-564-4355 / witcher.eryn@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-Nov. 9, 2005) The existing air quality monitoring
networks in Louisiana and Mississippi were badly damaged by hurricanes
Katrina and Rita, making it difficult to measure and report air quality
status in parts of the Gulf Coast region.  To provide the public with
this information, EPA, in coordination with the states of Louisiana and
Mississippi, has been working to restore the air quality monitoring
networks in the hurricane-damaged areas.  Results of limited sampling,
which began the first week of October, are now available on EPA's Web
site at:  

The newly available data include results from samples collected at three
Louisiana sites on Oct. 9 - 11, 2005, and six Mississippi sites,
collected Oct. 7 - 19, 2005.  All samples were analyzed in a laboratory.
EPA compared the particle pollution measurements to the Air Quality
Index, EPA's index for reporting daily air quality.  For other
pollutants reported, EPA, in consultation with the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has developed health-based
screening levels based on one year of exposure -- the period of time the
agency expects hurricane recovery activities to continue.  These
screening levels are drawn from ATSDR's intermediate minimal risk levels
(for up to 1 year exposure), and similar EPA values for those pollutants
for which minimal risk levels are not available.

Levels of most pollutants measured at the nine sites to date are below
the screening levels.  These pollutants include:  particle pollution,
lead and arsenic, most volatile organics compounds (such as benzene),
and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, which are associated with burning

Two sites showed elevated levels of two volatile organic compounds, and
the state of Mississippi and EPA are looking into their potential
sources on the dates sampled:
    At one site near the county health department in Pascagoula,
Miss., samples showed levels of formaldehyde on Oct. 18 and 19, 2005
that were much higher than levels detected on Oct.  7, 11 and 12 -- the
first levels at this site available for comparison.  EPA has continued
to monitor in these communities, and a review of preliminary data
collected on more recent dates indicates that formaldehyde
concentrations are returning to lower levels.

    A monitor located at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
measured levels of acrolein on Oct. 17 and 19, 2005 that were much
higher than levels measured beginning on Oct. 7 -- the first levels at
this site available for comparison.  Preliminary acrolein levels
continue to fluctuate between undetected and elevated above the
screening levels.

While reported concentrations of formaldehyde and acrolein were above
EPA's health-based screening levels for exposures of one year, they were
well below federal emergency management levels for short-term exposures
ranging from 10 minutes to 8 hours.  At the concentrations measured,
however, temporary irritation of the eyes, nose and throat could have
resulted.  While such exposures would not be acceptable on a regular
basis extended over weeks at a time, isolated exposures to such
concentrations are not believed to be associated with long-term health

Formaldehyde is formed during combustion:  in forest fires; in wood
stoves; in cigarette smoke; in power plants; and in vehicle exhaust.
The largest sources of directly emitted formaldehyde are from combustion
of fuels from mobile sources and process emissions from oil refineries.
Formaldehyde is associated with ground-level ozone.

Acrolein is primarily used to make other chemicals and may also be found
in some livestock feed.  Acrolein can be formed and can enter the air
when organic matter such as trees and other plants (including tobacco)
are burned and also when fuels such as gasoline and oil are burned.

As part of a larger regional air quality monitoring effort, this new
data provide more detailed information on pollutants than previous data
from earlier air screening and real-time measurements.

EPA will provide additional air quality information as it becomes


            News for Release:  Thursday, November 10, 2005

              U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

   EPA and MDEQ Release Results of Mississippi Water Quality Study

     Contact:  Eryn Witcher, 202-564-4355 / witcher.eryn@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-Nov. 10, 2005)  The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ
have completed a water quality study along major bay systems on the
Mississippi coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that showed few
chemicals of concern in bays and rivers where samples were taken.

The study looked for any serious short term problems with water quality.
EPA and MDEQ specifically targeted areas with the greatest potential for
environmental harm because of the proximity to industrial or municipal
areas.  Overall, the sampling data show that few water quality criteria
were exceeded during the study.  In areas where elevated contamination
levels were found, EPA and MDEQ will continue to evaluate the need for
additional site specific studies to determine if there are any further
adverse environmental impacts.  Samples collected show bacteria
concentrations at or below levels EPA considers suitable for swimming.

To determine if there may be any long term effects of the hurricane,
additional data will be collected and compiled with existing data.

The study encompassed major bay systems on the Mississippi coast
including Bangs Lake, Bayou Casotte, the Pascagoula and West Pascagoula
River systems, the Back Bay of Biloxi, St. Louis Bay, and the Pearl

The full report is available at:

Testing results by state, county or testing site can be viewed by using
EnviroMapper at: