Assessing Katrina's Impact on Alabama Water Systems

Sept. 12, 2005

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has deployed teams of engineers and scientists all along the Gulf Coast to aid Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. The ADEM is coordinating with public water and wastewater systems that have been impacted by the storm that hit the coast eight days ago to ensure they are functioning properly.

The department is providing assessment and technical assistance to water systems in an effort to maintain safe drinking water supplies.

The Alabama agency is working in close partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and recover hazardous materials that may have been dislodged during the storm.

The ADEM is currently involved in the assessment phase for most of southwest Alabama. This includes using aerial reconnaissance to look for oil sheen on surface waters that may indicate spills and other leaks of chemicals, petroleum products and other hazardous materials.

In Bayou La Batre, a number of boats are sunk or partially submerged and efforts are underway there to contain oil and gas spills.

"Our emergency response personnel have been working with federal, state, and local officials in a coordinated effort to restore safety to these storm damaged areas," said ADEM Director Trey Glenn.

"We are processing up-to-the minute reports and mobilizing staff as necessary to protect public health and safeguard the environment," he said. Alabama Governor Bob Riley and Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley announced today that Alabama's state parks will house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA is supplying trailers that will serve as long-term housing to evacuees who register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. Several hundred trailers are on their way to several state parks today, according to FEMA.

Alabama's 22 state parks have a total of 2,500 campsites and more than 350 rooms in lodges, chalets and cabins across the state. Modern campsites have water and electrical hookups, and some have sewer hook-ups as well.

Commissioner Lawley said that the Conservation Department is more than happy to make the space available for FEMA to use. "If there's anything that we can do to help out, we're willing to do it, even if it means making every room available," he said.

Lawley said that some tourists who had reservations at state parks have called to cancel them in anticipation of evacuees needing the rooms.

"With the popularity of our parks during the fall season, that's a small but extremely generous thing to do," he said. "We hope that when this emergency situation is over that those who canceled will take the time to visit our parks once again."

Lawley said he anticipates that the parks will host Alabamians as well as evacuees from Mississippi and Louisiana. "Alabama has had several large disaster situations, including Hurricane Ivan in 2004. We've depended on neighboring states to help us in the past, and now we're going to do everything we can to assist the people who need help."

The use of Alabama state parks for evacuees will be for an unknown period of time. Officials stress that evacuees must register with FEMA first to be assigned to one of the parks. The parks are not set up to handle people arriving without prior approval from FEMA.

Due to the flood disaster related to Hurricane Katrina, all Alabama coastal waters in Mississippi Sound from the Dauphin Island Bridge west to the Mississippi state line are closed to the operation of all vessels and watercraft, including commercial and recreational fishing vessels and watercraft.

Source: ENS