EPA, TCEQ release statement on water quality, damage

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have released a joint statement responding to the water-damaged areas that have been adversely impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The agencies’ statement reads as follows:

“EPA and TCEQ are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers occur during major flood events. The Agencies actively work to monitor those facilities that have reported spills, as well as conducting outreach and providing technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas.

Floodwaters may contain many hazards, including bacteria and other disease agents. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters.  These precautions include heeding all warnings from local and state authorities regarding boil water notices, swimming advisories, or other safety advisories. In addition to the drowning hazards of wading, swimming, or driving in swift floodwaters, these waters can carry large objects that are not always readily visible that can cause injuries to those in the water. Other potential hazards include downed power lines and possible injuries inflicted by animals displaced by the floodwaters.

Federal and state mobile command is currently about 200 people, who are working elbow-to-elbow, starting in Corpus Christi and moving east with primary responsibility of the health and safety of those affected by hurricane Harvey.  As we continue to respond to this natural disaster and its devastating effects on the people of Texas, the biggest threat to public health at this time is ensuring they have access to safe drinking water and ensuring wastewater systems are being monitored, tested for safety and managed appropriately.”

In layman’s terms, this statement means that these agencies are aware that unsanitary water is released, during storms, often by overflowing water storage facilities.  These agencies are both providing advice and support to these facilities as to how best to handle this hazardous situation.  Because flood waters and other unclean water can contain different types of dangerous bacteria, it is vitally important for anyone cleaning up or removing this polluted water to take certain safety precautions, which include: following all local and state level advice concerning boiling water, and all other safety advisories, including swimming.  

While driving in these hazardous conditions is likely to result in drowning and/or swimming in unhealthy water, others issues with venturing out into these waters include the fact that, because this water is dirty and often dark, it is likely that unseen and dangerous objects might be lurking under the water’s surface.  Other dangerous conditions that arise from these abnormal conditions include downed power lines.  The same precautions should be taken for displaced animals.  Beginning in Corpus Christi and moving east, about 200 federal and state workers have been tasked to assist people who have been adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey.  

As efforts continue, it is vitally important for the public to have access to clean drinking water, as well ensuring that wastewater facilities are being monitored and tested for cleanliness.  These are the top public health concerns for individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey.  

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