EPA Sediment and Surface Water Sampling Results and Conclusions for

New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita



Speakers:                   Donald Williams (6SF-LT)

Superfund Technical Support Team Leader

EPA Region 6, Dallas, TX



Level of Knowledge: Multi-Level


On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras, Louisiana, with winds of 145 miles per hour. By 11:00am, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and sections of St. Bernard Parish had been flooded with up to 10 feet of water. Sections of Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes were also flooded as a result of levee breaches. Under a mission assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), EPA began sampling floodwaters and sediments left behind as floodwaters receded. The initial sampling was conducted to assess the presence of hazardous substances for acute effects from short-term exposure of emergency workers and residents returning to their properties.


Floodwater sampling was conducted from September 6, 2005, until "unwatering" of the impacted areas was completed in mid-October. The results of approximately 1,500 sediment samples, collected in four phases from September 10 to the present, indicate that, in general, the flooding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not result in soil contamination in the flood-impacted areas. A major oil spill in St. Bernard Parish was the result of the hurricane, as was the presence of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons at the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site in New Orleans.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Develop a systematic approach for identifying environmental conditions and prioritizing potential risks from natural disasters
  2. Recognize the level of communication and coordination necessary among various federal, state, and local agencies and the general public