News Releases from Headquarters›Land and Emergency Management (OLEM)
EPA at 50: Responding to America’s Natural and Manmade Disasters
WASHINGTON (September 21, 2020) — As part of its 50th anniversary commemoration and National Preparedness Month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is highlighting its emergency response activities during natural and manmade disasters. The agency plays a key role in assisting communities in recovering from severe weather and oil spills, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and homeland security incidents. Over the last 50 years, EPA has addressed nationally significant incidents such as Love Canal, the Exxon Valdez tanker spill, Camp and Woolsey Wildfires in California, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 9/11, and Hurricanes Katrina, Irma, Maria, and Harvey.
“EPA has played a key role in the response to many nationally significant emergency incidents over its 50-year history,” said Assistant Administrator Peter Wright. “While EPA personnel have distinguished themselves in responding to large scale it’s the smaller, every-day emergency responses to spills and releases that are the backbone of our emergency response program and where EPA’s emergency responders protect communities across the country around the clock.”
Often, when requested, EPA assists state, local, and tribal partners with emergency management activities of a wide variety of size and scope, such as those related to the Canadian National Railroad train derailment in 2019 which impacted the border between the United States and Canada. For this response, the agency assisted with debris removal, installing an acid pumping system, air quality monitoring, as well as other emergency management actions. Additional examples of support that the agency’s federal on-scene coordinators, response teams, and contractors can provide include drinking water and wastewater assessments, field assessments, and community involvement resources.
During activations, EPA may deploy assets such as its Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT), which is an aircraft that is the nation’s only real-time chemical and radiological detection, infrared and photographic imagery platform. The agency also utilizes a self-contained mobile laboratory known as TAGA (Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer) capable of real-time sampling of outdoor air emissions.
The agency can also provide Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO) a software suite to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies. Responders and planners use the system to access, store, and evaluate information that is used to develop emergency plans.
During the Trump Administration, EPA personnel with the Office of Emergency Management and the ten regional Superfund and emergency management divisions have completed the following response activities:
- 974 cleanup actions (Superfund, removal, and oil)
- 1026 Risk Management Plan (RMP) field assessments
- 844 Facility Response Plan (FRP) field assessments
EPA continues to work with its federal, state, tribal and local partners to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The agency is providing guidance on waste management and clean-up efforts during the pandemic, as well as guidelines on the selection and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to EPA emergency responders.
For more on EPA’s work related to COVID-19, visit https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/coronavirus.
For more on EPA’s emergency response program, visit https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/emergency-response.
For more on EPA’s role and accomplishments during various manmade and natural disasters, follow the agency on Twitter @EPALand.
For more on EPA’s 50th Anniversary and how the agency is protecting America’s waters, land and air, visit: https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/50 or follow the agency on social media using #EPAat50.