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EPA Rounds Up Chemical Tanks Swept Away by Flood

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GRIFTON — Hurricane Floyd's effect on the environment may be felt for years. Monday, theEnvironmental Protection Agencydiscussed its efforts to clean up hazardous materials in the flood zones.

The flood waters in eastern North Carolina showed a tremendous ability to pick up chemical tanks and move them. The EPA is working overtime to find those tanks and dispose of them.

Ollie Harris' yard looks like a landfill now that the flood waters are gone. Two propane tanks floated in from somewhere, and one is still leaking.

"It is unbelievable. I couldn't believe it. One came from the back of the church, and I don't know where the other one came from," said Harris.

Thousands of chemical containers are showing up as creeks and waterways begin to drop. There were piles of them on one street in Grifton. Some, like leaking propane containers, can be dangerous.

"You could have a flammable situation and perhaps an explosion. We're trying to get all the valves off and get the tanks to a safe staging area," said Karen Knight of the EPA.

The EPA has already collected nearly 2,000 containers statewide.

Of course, many chemicals leak directly into the water. The EPA says small amounts are not dangerous.

The EPA's primary concern is capturing large spills and containers that could cause them. Many of the containers are labeled and will soon be returned to their owners.

"We'll call the manufacturers like the LP gas suppliers and say 'We've got some cylinders. Come and get them.' That will probably remove about 90 percent of the materials we've got out here," said Knight.

The EPA will continue to find more materials as the water goes down.

If you have any doubts, you can call your local health department to find out if the water is safe.