Hurricane Sandy Response
Historical Information About the Response
Air Curtain Incinerator – Air Monitoring at Floyd Bennett Field - On February 14 air curtain incineration ceased.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the request of New York City, operated two air curtain incinerators at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY to burn vegetative debris, largely from downed trees, gathered in the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy. These operations began on December 28, 2012 and ceased on February 14, 2013. An air curtain incinerator is a self-contained system that reduces wood debris to ash. It is equipped with air blowers that circulate the air to improve combustion and minimize emissions of fine particles.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deployed eight fine particle monitors operating around the perimeter of Floyd Bennett Field to monitor for potential impacts of the air curtain devices. An EPA On-Scene Coordinator was on-site while the burning took place to monitor what was being burned and air quality at the field.
Levels of fine particles were measured by the monitors and averaged over a 24-hour period. Results from the monitors were compared to an established 24-hour health-based standard. That standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3). If the 24-hour standard was exceeded, the EPA notified the Army Corps and New York City.
Air Sampling Results
On November 19, 2012, EPA collected air samples from eight locations around Floyd Bennett Field to measure baseline concentrations of 119 different chemicals including, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals, and dioxin. Exposure to these pollutants can have serious health effects, and in some cases, increase the risk of cancer. During the November 28 pilot burn, and EPA collected air samples from the eight sampling locations for analysis of the same parameters and chemicals. These samples were analyzed in a laboratory.
The baseline and pilot burn results were compared to screening values designed to protect people's health. There were 23 VOCs and one metal (sodium) detected in the baseline results. All the detected concentrations were below levels of concern. During the actual November 28 pilot burn there were 26 VOCs detected. All of the detected concentrations were below levels of concern and similar to the baseline results. There were no PAHs detected in the baseline results or pilot burn results, and no metals were detected in the pilot burn results. Dioxin was not detected in any of the baseline or pilot burn results.
Get the baseline and pilot burn sampling results summary table at https://www.epa.gov/sandy/data/burnsamplingsummary-11-28-2012.pdf
On January 8, 2013, an additional set of air sampling data was collected for VOCs, PAHs, metals, and dioxin. This latest sampling evaluated ongoing air curtain operations. The results from the latest round of air sampling data had 24 VOCs detected and one metal (barium) detected. All concentrations were below levels of concern and similar to the baseline results of November 19 and the pilot burn of November 28. There were no PAHs detected in latest burn results. Dioxin was not detected in the latest burn results.
Get the latest burn sampling results summary table at: https://epa.gov/region02/sandy/data/Pre_and_January_7-8_2013_Summary.pdf
Air Monitoring for Air Curtain Incinerator
From December 28 until the end of burning operations on February 14, results from operating monitors showed that the 24 hour standard has not been violated, except for January 9, 28, 29 and February 5. On those four days, one or more of the EPA's air monitors measured levels that exceeded the 24 hour standard. On all of the four days, overall weather conditions in NYC and most of the northeast and New York City resulted in an inversion in the air, which reduced the atmosphere's ability to mix and dilute pollution. For a more detailed discussion of each day, please see:
Update for January 10 | Update for January 29 | Update for January 30 | Update for February 6
In order to reduce the impacts of the air curtain devices at Floyd Bennett Field on air quality, steps were taken to limit the operation of the devices to reduce particle emissions.
The EPA has an established Air Quality Index reports daily air quality across the country. The index indicates how clean or polluted the air in a particular area is and what associated health effec ts might be a concern. For more information about the Air Quality Index, visit http://airnow.gov/.
Historical Results of EPA's air monitoring and the locations of the monitors can be found at:
The image below shows the location of the eight monitors, on Floyd Bennet Field, New York City, surrounding the air curtain burn device when it was in operation.
In support of FEMA and working closely with federal agencies, states, tribes and municipalities, EPA has been working to help prevent hazardous waste from being disposed of improperly.
EPA coordinated with stakeholders, local and State governments as well as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard to first assess locations with reported orphaned containers and then to remove orphaned containers if necessary at various locations in New York and New Jersey.
Part of EPA’s debris management effort includes retrieving hazardous waste and properly disposing of it. In New York, EPA is assisting the state and the city in assessing and collecting orphaned drums and containers. EPA is also assisting in separating out hazardous waste from other waste at staging areas in New York. These debris management efforts in New York have resulted in the collection of over 119,000 items including drums, propane tanks, cylinders and large and small containers. In New Jersey, EPA assisted the state in assessing and collecting large orphaned drums and containers. Those efforts resulted in a collection of 327 items including drums, cylinders and containers.
EPA worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop and implement a plan on debris removal and worked with New York State and local governments to collect household hazardous waste in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York. EPA also worked closely with New York City and the Corps of Engineers to set up household hazardous waste collection operations in New York City. EPA conducted curbside pickup of household hazardous waste in New York City neighborhoods impacted by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Household Hazardous Waste collection and drop-off was coordinated in Suffolk and Nassau Counties, New York.
Water and Wastewater Utilities:
In response to requests from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and municipalities, EPA provided assistance in assessing drinking water and wastewater facilities across the state. EPA assessed 40 drinking water facilities and 23 wastewater treatment plants. Of these facilities, two wastewater treatment plants requested further assistance from EPA, and no drinking water facilities requested EPA assistance. EPA provided assistance to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark, New Jersey and the Middlesex County Utility Authority in Sayreville, New Jersey.
- The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission receives sewage and industrial waste from 48 municipalities in and around Newark. It is the fifth largest wastewater treatment plant in the nation. During the storm, the plant was flooded and lost electricity. On October 31, 2012, power was restored. EPA worked in partnership with state and federal agencies to remove wastewater from the plant, fixe damaged equipment and find environmentally safe solutions for sludge disposal. EPA’s assistance at this site was no longer required as of December 14.
- During Hurricane Sandy, the Middlesex County Utility Authority lost power to its water utility intake pump. On November 6, 2012, power was restored. EPA worked with the utility and the state to fix damaged equipment. EPA’s assistance at this site was no longer required as of December 7.
In response to requests from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and municipalities, EPA provided assistance in assessing drinking water and wastewater facilities across the state. EPA assessed 40 drinking water facilities and 12 wastewater treatment plants. None of these facilities required additional assistance from EPA.
Sampling Results for Drinking Water Wells on Shinnecock National Lands:
At the request of the Shinnecock Nation on Long Island, EPA sampled three drinking water wells located on Shinnecock Nation land on November 10, 2012. The samples were analyzed for bacteria, turbidity and nitrates. Results from these samples show that the water from the wells meets New York State drinking water and groundwater standards. For results, visit https://www.epa.gov/region2/nations/pdf/ShinnecockDW.pdf
In advance of Hurricane Sandy, EPA secured contaminated sites in the federal Superfund program in New Jersey and New York to protect against potential damage. Since the storm, EPA has been assessing these sites. All 105 of the removal sites have been assessed and do not pose an immediate threat to public health or the environment. All 142 remedial sites in the area have been assessed. We do not believe that any sites were impacted in ways that would pose a threat to nearby communities. However, we have done additional follow up sampling at the Gowanus Canal site in Brooklyn, New York, the Newtown Creek site on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, New York and the Raritan Bay Slag site in Laurence Harbor and Sayreville, New Jersey.
Newtown Creek Sampling:
Newtown Creek, on the border of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, is contaminated from more than 150 years of pollution from refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The site was placed on the Superfund list in September 2010.
On November 9, 2012, EPA took two samples in the Newtown Creek area. Samples were taken from the basement of a building on Eagle Street that had been flooded as well as directly from the creek. Levels of bacteria were high. While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters that contain sewage and therefore contain bacteria. Additional chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected. For more details, visit https://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/newtowncreek/
Gowanus Canal Sampling:
The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York City is contaminated from many years of industrial discharges, spills, storm water runoff and combined sewer overflows. The site was added to the Superfund list in March 2010. In response to Hurricane Sandy, EPA immediately conducted a visual inspection of the length of the canal and the surrounding area and did not observe sediment on the streets.
On October 31, 2012, EPA took four samples in the Gowanus Canal area. Samples were taken from the ground floors of two buildings that had been flooded as well as directly from the canal. One of the buildings is located at the head of the canal, and the other near the 3rd street turning basin. Levels of bacteria were elevated, as would be expected with water carrying sewage, therefore precautions should be taken when cleaning flood waters. Additional chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected. For more details, visit https://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/gowanus/
The Raritan Bay Slag Site is located on a beach in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge, in the adjacent Margaret’s Creek marsh area, and in a nearby area of Sayreville, New Jersey. The site is contaminated with lead slag, a byproduct of metal smelting. This lead slag was used to construct a seawall and a jetty along the southern shore of the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville.
After Hurricane Sandy, four soil samples were taken in the Laurence Harbor Section of the site on November 3, 2012. Two of the four samples were taken from the public playground area, and the other two were taken from the restricted beach area previously enclosed by the fence. The EPA compared the results to a concentration established to be protective for residential exposure. Results showed that lead in three of the four samples met this residential limit. Lead in one sample taken in the restricted area of the beach was above the residential limit.
The EPA took additional samples on November 11through 14 and December 20. The EPA collected soil samples from 133 locations on the site. Lead was identified at concentrations above the residential limit at five locations, but the meaning of these results was inconclusive. On February 20, the EPA collected seven additional samples at a seawall at the site. As of February 27, the EPA was awaiting these latest sampling results for evaluation before determining the appropriate next steps at the site.
Berry’s Creek Study Area:
The Berry’s Creek Study Area in Bergen County, NJ is contaminated from many years of chemical processing waste and other industrial sources inputs. The site is a study area of the Ventron/Velsicol Superfund site. Prior to the hurricane, several marsh sediment pilot studies commenced. While there was significant flooding in the area, the test plots were virtually undisturbed, indicating a stable sediment environment. For more details, visit https://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/berryscreek/index.html
Horseshoe Road/Atlantic Resources:
The Horseshoe Road Site and the adjacent Atlantic Resources Corporation Site are both located on the south shore of the Raritan River in Sayreville, New Jersey. The sites were contaminated with waste material from industrial facilities starting in the 1950s and going through the mid 1980s. Contamination from both facilities impacted site soils and has entered the adjacent marsh and Raritan River. EPA visited the site on two occasions shortly after the hurricane to ensure that soil clean-up work and wetland restoration completed in 2009 was not damaged, and to survey site impacts. None of the previous work was damaged and none of the impacts appear to pose a threat to human health or the environment. EPA is currently working on a survey of sediments in the marsh and river to determine if any of the design conditions for the upcoming sediment clean-up have been altered significantly. For more details, visit: https://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/horseshoe/ and https://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/atlanticresources/
Newark Bay/NY Harbor Sampling Results:
On November 29, 2012 EPA’s boat, ‘The Clean Waters,’ was used to collect water samples in Newark Bay and New York Harbor at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Ten (10) samples of harbor and bay water were collected to determine concentrations of bacteria from the releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority.
The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste. The established limit in New Jersey is 14 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for shellfish harvesting. Fecal coliform levels all ten (10) of EPA’s samples were above this limit. EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into direct contact with the waters in Newark Bay and New York Harbor.
Results of the EPA sampling and sampling conducted directly by NJDEP to date can be found using the following link: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bmw/sandynyharbor.html
Hudson River/Yonkers, N.Y. Wastewater Treatment Plant Sampling Results:
On November 16, 2012, EPA’s vessel, ‘The Clean Waters,’ was used to collect water samples in the Hudson River in the area surrounding the Westchester Yonkers joint Wastewater Treatment Plant outfall. The EPA collected 7 samples of water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged sewage treatment system in Westchester County.
The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New York is 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for secondary contact such as boating, fishing, etc. The fecal coliform level of one EPA sample was above this limit. The EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into contact with the waters in and around the Westchester Yonkers Sewage Treatment Plant. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: https://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html
Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which is generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. Results of the sampling can be found at: https://epa.gov/sandy/pdf/WestchesterYonkersWWTPNov152012.pdf
Nassau County/Bay Park Water Sampling Results:
On November 15, 2012, EPA’s vessel, ‘The Boston Whaler,’ was used to collect water samples in the East Rockaway, Hog Island and Reynolds channels adjacent to Island Park and Long Beach, New York. The EPA took 11 samples of water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged Bay Park sewage treatment system in Nassau County.
The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New York is 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for secondary contact such as boating, fishing, etc. Fecal coliform levels from EPA’s samples were below this limit. The EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into contact with the waters in and around the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: https://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html
Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which are generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. Results of the sampling can be found at https://epa.gov/sandy/pdf/NassauCountyNov152012.pdf
Raritan Bay/MCUA Sampling Results:
On November 14, 2012, EPA’s vessel, ‘The Boston Whaler,’ was used to collect water samples in the Washington Canal, Raritan River and upper Raritan Bay at the request of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The EPA took 12 samples of river and bay water to determine concentrations of bacteria and dissolved oxygen from the releases of raw or partially treated sewage from the storm-damaged Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) sewage treatment system.
The samples were analyzed for fecal coliform, a common group of bacteria associated with human waste, and dissolved oxygen. The established limit in New Jersey is 14 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters of water for shellfish harvesting. Fecal coliform levels from EPA’s samples were above this limit. EPA strongly advises that people avoid activities that could bring them into direct contact with the waters in and around the tidal Raritan River/Washington Canal and Raritan Bay area. Should contact occur, wash with soap and water. For more information view our fact sheets: https://epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html
Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which are generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life. To view a map and the results, visit www: https://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/RaritanBaydata20121116.pdf
Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights Sampling Results:
On November 6, 2012, EPA’s boat, ‘The Clean Waters,’ was used to take water quality samples in coastal waters of New Jersey from Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights. There were 16 samples of ocean water collected 1-3 miles off the coast to determine potential impacts from the releases of raw sewage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
The samples were analyzed for Enterococcus, a common group of bacteria associated with animal and human waste. The established limit for swimming is 104 bacteria colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Enterococcus levels from EPA’s samples were below this limit. Results of the sampling can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bmw/sandyatlanticocean.htm
Ironbound/Passaic River Sampling
The Passaic River has a long history of industrialization, which has resulted in degraded water quality, sediment contamination, loss of wetlands and abandoned or underutilized properties along the shore. The lower Passaic River is considered part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site, which is a source of dioxin contamination to the river.
Residences and commercial buildings near the Passaic River were impacted by flood waters during Hurricane Sandy. On November 17, 2012 EPA obtained four samples of flood water from three residences adjacent to the river, in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. The samples from two of the residences were collected on or about October 29, 2012 by the residents themselves and given by them to EPA; the sample from the third residence was collected by EPA personnel on November 17, 2012. On November 19, 2012 one further sample was taken from the Passaic River itself. A total of five samples, including a duplicate sample taken as a quality control, were collected for analysis.
The samples were analyzed for bacteria and 189 different chemicals, including Metals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), Gasoline Range Organics (GROs), Diesel Range Organics (DROs), Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH), and Dioxins/Furans. Due to insufficient sample volume, only bacterial analyses were performed on two of the three residential samples.
Levels of bacteria were high. While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters. Fact sheets detailing precautions that should be taken when cleaning flood waters can be found at https://www.epa.gov/sandy/factsheets.html.
Additional chemicals that were tested were either not detected, or were below levels of concern, with the exception of arsenic, iron, and lead. Arsenic and iron slightly exceeded drinking water standards, while concentrations of lead were about 20 times higher than the drinking water standard. Drinking water standards are established to protect people drinking two liters of water daily for 70 years. Because people were not drinking the floodwater, and had minimal contact with it for only a limited time, EPA does not consider these levels to be cause for concern.
Concentrations of chemicals in the Passaic River were all below drinking water standards. Results of the sampling at are https://www.epa.gov/sandy/pdf/ironboundsummary.pdf. For more details, also visit https://www.epa.gov/region2/passaicriver/
Sampling of Rockaway Beach Sand
During Hurricane Sandy, the storm surge carried a large volume of sand from Rockaway Beach onto nearby roadways and yards. Shortly after the storm, New York City began removing the sand from these areas. The sand has been temporarily stored on the parking field of Jacob Riis Park in Queens, New York.
New York City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are planning to return the sand temporarily stored at Jacob Riis Park to Rockaway Beach and use it to build up a sand barrier underneath the boardwalk. New York City requested that EPA sample the sand for the presence of chemical contaminants to determine if it could be beneficially reused.
On November 16, 2012, at the request of New York City, EPA took samples from one of the large piles of sand temporarily stored at Jacob Riis Park. EPA analyzed the samples for the presence of 172 different chemicals within the following categories: volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, metals, PCBs and pesticides.
The analytical results were reviewed for ecological and human health risks. Pollutants detected in the Rockaway sand samples were compared to New York State and EPA ecological and human health benchmarks for cleanups of contaminants in soil. The chemicals tested were below levels of concern or were not detected.
EPA shared these results with New York City and with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. NYSDEC has approved the sand for beneficial reuse.
Cleanup and Recovery:
In New Jersey and New York, EPA helped the State to pump out oiled water in basements. People should report chemical or oil spills to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.