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NEPMU 2 Ensures Air Quality for New Orleans Relief Efforts

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050913-12
Release Date: 9/13/2005 3:00:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SCW/SS) James G. Pinsky, Navy News Service

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- Members of Naval Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 2’s Forward Deployable Preventive Medicine Unit (FDPMU) East continued their efforts to establish a safe environment for relief workers and residents recovering from the impact of Hurricane Katrina Sept. 13.

FDPMU East, currently deployed to Naval Air Station (NAS) Joint Reserve Base (JRB) New Orleans, conducted environmental monitoring of residential areas of the St. Benard Parish affected by contamination of oil from a nearby oil refinery as a result of damages sustained Aug. 29 from Hurricane Katrina.

The survey, which was coordinated with Environmental Protection Agency on-scene commander Randy Schademann, was conducted at the request of Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas V. O’Dell, commander, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Katrina (SPMAGTF-Katrina) as a precaution to ensure his Marines could safely conduct house-to-house searches in the disaster-stricken parish.

The results from the monitoring found no significant levels of air contaminants, allowing the Marines to conduct life-saving searches.

Disaster recovery often puts service members in unique and potentially dangerous environments, and concrete, scientific evidence helps reassure rescue workers and service members that they are operating in a non-toxic environment.

“[The troops we serve] quickly realize that what they do is dangerous," said Lt. Cmdr. Ray Stiff, FDPMU East executive officer. "They hear rumors about the places they're at being dangerous, and part of my job is to tell them what can and can not make them sick.”

The immediacy of the results from a test gives area commanders the intelligence they need to keep their Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines safe in the most expeditious manner, and ultimately get the job done.

“Telling a Marine he can do his job safely in this kind of environment is the most rewarding part of my job,” said Stiff.

FDPMU East is currently forward-deployed to NAS JRB New Orleans as JTF Katrina’s primary preventive medicine authority for DoD relief efforts in the region and continues to work with federal, state, local and fellow DoD personnel to expedite the restoration and maintenance of habitable living conditions in the region.

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