The Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 announced today an award of $932,000 to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is to be used for providing “alternative water supplies and relocation of residents at sites where underground storage tank releases occurred and the responsible party is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond.” This announcement comes on the heels of a $1,059,200 award granted from EPA on December 4 to Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals also for water quality and enforcement issues.

The announcement of these awards coincides with the release of a report from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a non-profit organization that trains citizens to monitor air and water for pollution, that finds that millions of pounds of toxics have been released in Louisiana’s air and water supplies since Katrina as a result of “accidents” from oil refineries.

A representative from LDEQ’s communications division was not aware of the EPA grant, and so deferred comment. LDHH’s media office also deferred comment until the department was able to determine whether or not the $1,059,200 grant was something they applied for with a particular program in mind, but said that it may be used for their Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund and/or the Safe Drinking Water Program.

Last month, EPA’s chief administrator Lisa Jackson met with local environmental activists Beverly Wright, of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and the recently deceased Pam Dashiell, an advocate for residents of the Lower 9th Ward, in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways that EPA could better suit New Orleans’ environmental needs. Wright tells The Lens that she’s met with Jackson several times and that the EPA administrator “is really concerned about any contamination left from the storms that can harm children, and she wants to make certain that the EPA is responding appropriately.”

Wright also said that she’s voiced concerns to EPA officials that Louisiana is sometimes overlooked within EPA’s Region 6, perhaps because the region’s main office is in Dallas. While LDEQ received $932,000 for water issues, Texas received an award for $4,192,888. Texas is a much larger state than Louisiana, which Wright acknowledged saying this is why those here with environmental interests “will have to be vigilant in making sure we take our concerns forward.”

— Brentin Mock