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Army, local Hazmat teams clean up New Orleans for residents' return

By Sarah Elizabeth Hopton

BELLE CHASSE NAVAL AIR STATION, La. (Army News Service, Oct. 21, 2005) – The Army Civil Support Teams and the New Orleans Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team have collected more than 5,000 containers of hazardous materials throughout Louisiana since they were scattered by flooding from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

The teams began by dividing a map of the New Orleans area into more than 30 sectors, and each day the teams were briefed on the sectors. They’re searching for chemicals or hazardous waste products washed up from the storms. Nine CST and NOFD hazmat teams are clearing residential and industrial areas to ensure the areas are clean for residence to return home safely.

The teams cover flooded areas first because the flood water moved the containers from an appropriate working cite to anywhere the flood water was located. The places that have the most hazardous materials are located in residential areas backed next to industrial buildings that flooded.

Any container larger than five gallons is checked out.

“We advise, assist and assess,” said Sgt. David M. Wooten, 772nd CST, Lincoln, Neb. “It’s our job to mark each container and call it into the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Each container is marked with the date it was found, the organization that found it, indications if it contains hazardous materials, and the amount within the container. Once a container is marked and the location called in, the EPA comes out to safely remove it and determine if further action needs to be taken.

As the teams search and assess various properties, they know not every container found is hazardous. They take no action on non-hazardous materials, other than alerting the owner of the property (if in residence) to the presence of the container.

“What we’re doing is important,” said Staff Sgt. William T. Rose, 62nd CST, Carville, La.. “The people returning to New Orleans will be returning to a safer place.”`



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