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Shuttle Material Not Present in Drinking Water

Release Date: 2/11/2003
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms no hazardous chemicals from the Space Shuttle Columbia rocket fuel are present in drinking water samples collected by Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) Office of Public Health officials from water treatment systems served by the Toledo Bend reservoir.

      EPA's confirmation supports the Feb. 2 federal Centers for Disease Control advisory to the LDHH Office of Public Health and the interim assessment by experts in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The advisory and the assessment both stated material that fell into the waters of Toledo Bend reservoir from the Space Shuttle Columbia should not pose a risk to public health.

      Laboratory results, confirmed by EPA scientists and reviewed by federal and state health experts, did not show the presence of hazardous chemicals from Columbia material in drinking water. Laboratory testing searched for the presence of two toxic liquid fuel chemicals -- hydrazine and monomethyl hydrazine -- to ensure these chemicals were not present in drinking water supplies.  Neither of these two toxic chemicals was present in any drinking water sample.

      As a precaution, LDHH collected samples of treated water from the drinking water systems that use Toledo Bend reservoir as their raw water source to verify that local water treatment systems continued to provide purified water to their customers.  The reservoir serves as the raw water source for more than 10 drinking water treatment systems in Louisiana and Texas.

      "When we learned of the space shuttle tragedy, we immediately began working with EPA to collect samples from the affected areas," said Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary David W. Hood. "Although we learned contamination of Toledo Bend was unlikely, we wanted to proceed with these tests as a precaution so citizens of that area could know they had access to safe drinking water."

      Response officials continue efforts using sophisticated sonar, helicopter surveys and dive teams to determine the presence of Columbia material in the Toledo Bend reservoir.  Underwater recovery of possible Columbia material by dive teams is underway.

      Severn Trent Laboratories (STL) in Denver, Colorado, conducted laboratory testing of drinking water samples.  Severn Trent Laboratories is the largest environmental laboratory company in the U.S., with 28 laboratory locations in 20 states.  The Denver laboratory maintains appropriate certifications, including the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP), and approvals for a wide variety of federal and many state regulatory initiatives.  It has sufficient capacity to handle a variety of large, complex analytical programs.

      For more information concerning Space Shuttle Columbia material collection activities, contact the Joint Information Center at 936-699-1094 or visit EPA's web site:  For more information regarding LDHH activities, contact Mr. Bob Johannessen, Director of Communications, at 225-342-1532.