Underwater Magazine - July/August 2012 - (Page 22)
BY SEAN SHELDRAKE, UNIT DIVING OFFICER, EPA REGION 10 ROB PEDERSEN, DEPUTY UNIT DIVING OFFICER, EPA REGION 10 ALAN HUMPHREY, UNIT DIVING OFFICER, ERT
THE US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
has a number of dive teams throughout the country that perform scientific diving services in support of the Agency’s mission. The Region 10 Dive Unit has been around since EPA’s inception more than 40 years ago. The team covers a wide area, from cold, marine Alaskan waters, to warmer inland lakes and rivers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. The Environmental Response Team (ERT) has been in place since 1978, diving in all 50 states to support Superfund cleanups and emergency response. Both EPA dive units primarily conduct polluted water diving in microbial and chemically impacted water bodies.
to a positive pressure full face mask with drysuit, dryhood, and drygloves, tender PPE upgrades, and decontamination (decon.). Although the positive pressure FFM may be subject to leakage, this is deemed acceptable for EPA uses at low to moderately contaminated sites in conjunction with our medical monitoring program. Exhaust droplet inhalation, while a concern for the FFM, is also of concern for helmets that do not exhaust to the surface. No amount of good PPE will do the diver any good outside of a systematic
approach to polluted water: PPE, decontamination, training, and medical monitoring/ immunizations.
Dive Sites, Dive Planning, and Online Resources
For EPA, scientific diving operations in support of Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation Act, and Superfund programs typically include conducting instrument recovery, outfall inspections, and a variety of environmental media sampling, all in polluted water. EPA uses the online tools for planning a polluted water dive or to ensure that a dive being planned is not a likely polluted water dive as described above. Concerns over pollution exposure lead the EPA to upgrade protective measures, such as keeping the diver completely dry (minimum slick drysuit with integrated hood, full face mask (FFM), drygloves), use of decontamination, and medical/monitoring/immunizations for divers. Absence of definitive information always results in personal protective equipment (PPE) upgrades 22
UnderWater JULY/AUGUST 2012
Figure 1: Sewer outfall near downtown Seattle in a popular charting program.
Figure 2: An example of available GIS data of storm drains and combined sewer outfalls in the Central Puget Sound.
Figure 3: US EPA Diver Rob Rau inspecting a discarded 55 gallon drum encountered oﬀ a former manufactured gas plant in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Sean Sheldrake, EPA Region 10 Dive Team.
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