When AMI Environmental’s Emergency Response Team arrived in New Orleans, LA they found that Katrina’s hurricane winds caused relatively minor damage to the Department of Defense multi-story facility. Flooding, however, caused substantial damage, primarily in the basements and first floor areas. The basements and subbasement were filled to capacity with floodwaters, creating a toxic mixture of sewage, hydrocarbons and chemicals. Damage to other areas of the building consisted primarily of mold growth and general environmental decay, which was caused by a combination high heat and humidity and prolonged systems outages. Human waste and decaying food was also present, due to extended human occupancy without sanitary services. In addition, damaged and contaminated furnishings and building materials throughout the facility represented a staggering waste stream, much of which required special handling and packaging for disposal.
With numerous safety and health hazards obvious and many more unknown, the immediate course of action for the facility manager and the AMI Environmental Health & Safety team was to secure access to the site to prevent unprotected entry into potentially hazardous environments. Environmental testing began immediately, which included the collection and analysis of a myriad of samples for identifying environmental hazards threatening to persons entering the facility. Testing methods included real-time sampling for gases, fumes, radiation and airborne contaminants utilizing state-of-the-art instrumentation. An in depth inspection of the facility was also performed to determine the extent of the mold contamination and to identify the presence of chemical, biological and other hazardous materials that may impact cleanup operations. A multitude of samples – bulk, swab, dust, water, soil and air – were collected and analyzed to document conditions, support remediation design and establish baselines.
Structural specialists from Leo A. Daly Company conducted an immediate assessment of accessible areas of the facility’s foundation and structure to ensure their integrity. The structural and systems assessments progressed as areas became accessible and environmental hazards investigated and neutralized. Special attention was given to mechanical and electrical systems that had been submerged.