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Homeland Security and Environmental Issues Robert Pitt Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 Katrina.

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Presentation on theme: "Homeland Security and Environmental Issues Robert Pitt Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 Katrina."— Presentation transcript:

1 Homeland Security and Environmental Issues Robert Pitt Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL Katrina oil refinery damage; EPA photo

2 Why Do Disasters Happen? Widespread use of hazardous materials. Highly complex and interconnected systems. Increased movement of hazardous materials. Rapid industrialization. Inadequate training. Inadequate regulation. Inadequate preventative measures. Complacency with infrequent incidents.

3 By analyzing the tracks of tropical storms for the past 100 years, Sperling’s BestPlaces ranked which areas are most likely to be hit next by a major hurricane: 1) Southeast Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach) 2) Key West and the Florida keys 3) Southwest Florida (Fort Myers-Naples) 4) West Florida (Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota-Clearwater) 5) Outer Banks islands, NC (Cape Hatteras) 6) Central Texas Gulf coast (Galveston) 7) Central Florida Atlantic coast (Melbourne-Cocoa Beach) 8) Florida Panhandle (Pensacola-Panama City) 9) Central Gulf coast (New Orleans, LA-Biloxi, MS-Mobile, AL) 10) South Texas Gulf coast (Corpus Christi-Brownsville) Recent high numbers of hurricanes have certainly changed our attitude concerning these devastating natural storms and associated disasters.

4 Flooded New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina (NOAA and SPOT images)

5 Fuel and other material leakage from damaged boats. Hurricane Katrina (NOAA photo)

6 Transportation of Hazardous Materials –In the U.S., 1.5 to 4 billion tons of hazardous chemicals are transported each year. –There are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials daily in the United States according to the DOT

7 Birmingham News (Alabama) Alabama has about 200 transportation accidents a year involving hazardous materials. This is typical for most states.

8 Fire from 200,000 gallons of spilled gasoline in residential area from pipeline rupture (June 1999) Bellingham Herald (Washington)

9 Inappropriate discharges, including accidental hazardous material releases and failing sewerage infrastructure, can cause acute receiving water effects.

10 Natural vs. Technological Disaster Natural disasters seen as part of the order of things, i.e., “acts of God or caprices of nature.” –Such calamities are to be expected because we do not have and do not expect to have control of nature. Manmade/technological disasters seen as preventable. –Expectation to be able to control technology. –It may be more of a blow to suffer a technological catastrophe since it could have been prevented. –Issues of blame and responsibility show up more in man- made disasters. These disasters can produce much higher levels of anger and distrust than natural disasters. However, Katrina emergency response certainly caused a great deal of blame and anger. Steve Becker, School of Public Health, UAB

11 Characteristics of Toxic Disasters May “announce” themselves or may be insidious. Have the potential to affect large numbers of people. Can have long-lasting effects. Can cross political borders. May occur anywhere, and socio-economic status may not be protective. In the United States, 17 incidents have released sufficient volumes of chemicals with such toxicity that potential consequences could have been worse than Bhopal (had location/situation been different). Steve Becker, School of Public Health, UAB

12 Psychosocial Impacts of Toxic Disasters Community Effects –After natural disaster may have therapeutic community develop. –Technological disasters often have a conflict community develop. Social Stigma Widespread and Chronic Effects –Natural disasters typically have identifiable low point after which “things tend to get better.” –Difficult to identify start of recovery in technological disasters. Steve Becker, School of Public Health, UAB

13 Need for Rapid and Accurate Water Quality Analyses Environmental disasters can cause accidental releases of hazardous materials. Natural disasters also may cause releases of hazardous sewage, and industrial wastes throughout an area. The public health of the community is at risk when residents and rescue/cleanup crews contact contaminated water and sediment Rapid responses to determine the magnitude of the potential problems are necessary.

14 New NSF Joint Project with the Environmental Institute/CEE at UA and the Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies at UAB The objective of this project is to utilize optical sensor technology used for detecting environmental contaminants and to improve these techniques using recently developed revolutionary laser and spectroscopic technologies. A primary application of these new optical sensor technologies will be Counter-Terrorism related applications such as the detection of chemical warfare agents and their precursors, nuclear processing products and precursors, and biological warfare agents, and to assist in emergency response to protect human health after natural disasters through the rapid detection of organic and inorganic toxicants.

15 New Analytical Tools Rapid and highly sensitive methods to detect hazardous organic and metallic contaminants in the water are needed It’s not just “sensor” development, but a whole analytical approach that is needed to be effective in these situations We have evaluated test equipment and analytical procedures for many situations. The following are the key factors in these evaluations: –Equipment cost –Staff training –Analytical time –Sample preparation –Volume of sample needed –Safety and disposal of wastes –Sensitivity and accuracy of method

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18 Advantages of Laser Fluorescence Spectrophotometry for Environmental Monitoring  Extremely low detection limits (

19 Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy system with argon- water aerosol sample delivery

20 Laser Atomic Fluorescence with atomizer for liquid samples Laboratory set-up for the laser atomic fluorescence analysis of copper and iron with graphite furnace atomizer.

21 Fluorescence of Cu atoms under nm laser excitation

22 Fe I response in sample water

23 EPA’s New Science Advisory Board Homeland Security Committee The Federal Register announcement states the EPA’s homeland security roles include: – protection of critical infrastructure including water and wastewater industries; –aiding other federal agencies in the protection of the chemical, food, transportation, and energy sectors; –responding and recovering from any chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear terrorist events; –providing environmental expertise to support federal law enforcement activities; –improving compliance monitoring and surveillance of imports in U.S. ports of entry; and –synthesizing and communicating complex information related to human health and the environment. –Additionally, EPA is committed to protecting its own personnel and infrastructure and conducting internal evaluations of the Agency's homeland security activities to determine if objectives are achieved.

24 Our first tasks were to provide QA/QC assistance to the federal and state government agency environmental monitoring activities after Hurricane Katrina. Human health and water quality in the major bay systems in Mississippi and in Mississippi Sound are currently of particular concern to Mississippi DEQ and US EPA, Region 4. Therefore, the EPA Office of Research and Development has planned comprehensive water quality monitoring/sampling of the Mississippi Sound. To complement that effort, the Region 4 Science & Ecosystem Support Division has proposed conducting water quality monitoring and sampling at the major bay outlets to the Mississippi Sound. Additionally, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has requested that this sampling include historic SESD/MDEQ sampling stations within each bay system to provide some relative comparison of current conditions. Katrina Effects Environmental Investigations

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27 Acknowledgments and Disclaimers Some of the material in this presentation is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EPS The University Transportation Center of Alabama (UTCA) also supported some of the work. Information is also presented from work on the Homeland Security Committee of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the UTCA, or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, although their support is greatfully acknowledged.


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