WEF is currently developing a special session on Hurricane Katrina and Rita for WEFTEC®.05. The session is expected to feature a panel of experts who will discuss the storms' impacts to local water quality, public health, and the environment, as well as the status of recovery efforts in the devastated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region over two weeks ago, WEF has been working with a wide range of local, state and federal agencies to best address current needs and assist in long-term recovery efforts, particularly those related to the restoration of clean water and sanitation services. Currently, the Federation has joined in the call for financial contributions to disaster relief agencies and is supporting Gulf Coast-area water utilities by encouraging its members and other professionals to register with the Department of Homeland Security's National Emergency Resource Registry.

"Up to this point, WEF has deferred to those on the ground in the Gulf Coast region to address immediate needs," said WEF President Lynn Orphan. "Now, as we move towards recovery of the affected areas, the Federation felt that it was important to organize a forum for experts to discuss issues directly related to the short and long-term challenges faced by local water quality professionals and city officials."

Session focus areas include:

  • Impacts on water and wastewater facilities;
  • Status of recovery efforts;
  • Estimated costs and timeline for repairing and rebuilding water and wastewater facilities;
  • Emergency planning and lessons learned;
  • Impacts on water quality and the Louisiana coastal wetlands;
  • Impacts for public health; and;
  • Short and long-term impacts of water contamination.;

"Right now, the most dangerous materials in the water are human waste and decaying organic matter," said WEF Member and Session Moderator Don Blancher (Toxicological and Environmental Associates, Inc., Mobile, Ala.). "The long-term challenges will relate to a variety of chemical compounds including petroleum products and solvents from gas stations, pesticides, and other household products. Since we don't know how much of this will actually be released into local waters, there is a tremendous need for assessment of these issues."

The session's panel will be comprised of federal officials, utility professionals, and consultants with direct knowledge of these issues and the Gulf Coast region. Content will follow-up technical sessions from WEFTEC®.04 held last October at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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