Multi-Agency Pollution Task for Continues Cleaning Alabama and Mississippi Coast

A multi-agency task force of environmental response experts continue to remedy as many as 65 active reports of hazardous materials and oil pollution in Alabama and Mississippi resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

This federal, state and local task force comprises 10 agencies that include the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Alabama and Mississippi state environmental conservation and protection departments. Various commercial and private contractors have been enlisted as well.

Currently, 421 commercial and recreational vessels displaced inland as a result of the hurricane are being assessed and removed by the Coast Guard and other federal agencies.
To date, 83 vessels have either been recovered or had fuel and oil removed, a process known as lightering.

As of Oct. 4, 22 multi-agency assessment and recovery teams had:

? conducted shoreline and waterway assessments throughout Mississippi and Alabama;
? resolved 2,315 of 2,380 cases reported to the Coast Guard and EPA;
? assessed a total of 504 vessels grounded or deposited inland along coastal areas for potential oil discharges;
? collected more than 10,000 hazardous materials such as drums, tanks, cylinders, containers and batteries throughout the Mississippi counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson as well as the Alabama counties of Baldwin and Mobile;
? recovered about 43,000 gallons of fuel;
? and assessed more than 200 facilities.

"The Coast Guard and its agency partners want to ensure the Gulf coast is a safe environment following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina," said Lt. Cmdr. Jim Elliott, the Coast Guard federal on-scene coordinator here. "We live and work in these areas too, and we want to help ensure these communities get back on their feet as soon as possible."

The Coast Guard is contacting vessel owners and operators before removing displaced vessels. Owners of displaced vessels should call the Coast Guard at 251-441-5368.

A hotline is available to answer questions about vessel removal issues at 1-866-287-6935.

Citizens should report any oil or chemical spills to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Media interested in accompanying any of the multi-agency assessment and recovery teams or speaking with members of the Mobile Unified Command Environmental Branch should contact the public information officer at 252-243-2440 or 252-243-2406.