...this blog kills fascists...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

'Reckless and Irresponsible'

Quickly, quickly, now. Everyone stand like you were...before. Make like nothing's happened.

The urge to "get back to normal" is well understood and empathized with, but to rush people back into an environmental mess of absolutely historic proportions--inside Cancer Alley to begin with--is just wrong. AP reports:

A new health risk emerged Friday from the sediment of New Orleans - test results showing that diesel and fuel oils, which can take years to break down, make up as much as a 10th of the weight of some sediment samples.

The test results came from 18 sediment samples drawn Sept. 10 from across the New Orleans area, where there have been five flood-related oil spills since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29.

Earlier tests turned up dangerous amounts of sewage-related bacteria and lead in floodwaters and more than 100 chemical pollutants.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it also found E. coli bacteria in the sediment - the residue left from water, soil from backyards and road and construction debris - as well as slightly elevated levels of arsenic and lead. It didn't report the levels of E. coli bacteria, and there's no health standard for how much E. coli can be in soil or sediment. [...]

Fuel oils such as kerosene, jet fuel, range oil and home heating oil irritate the skin and, if breathed, cause nausea, headaches, increased blood pressure, light-headedness, appetite loss, poor coordination and difficulty concentrating. Breathing diesel-fuel vapors for long periods can cause kidney damage and lower the blood's ability to clot.

William Farland, EPA's acting science adviser, said he was not seeing anything in the sediment that suggests a big public health risk, "as long as people are careful to remove the sediment, keep it from getting on their bare skin and clean it off if they do."

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said this week he expects some of the city's neighborhoods to reopen and up to 180,000 people to move back over the next two weeks as electricity and water are restored .
180,000 people walking into this toxic slop, with the EPA basically telling them to be sure and wash up, and all will be well. Why do I have such a sense of deja vu? Oh yeah. Shades of Ground Zero.
Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at EPA who has been a longtime whistleblower within the agency, called it "reckless and irresponsible" for EPA to imply that people moving back into New Orleans will be safe.

While EPA has conducted limited monitoring by aircraft of air pollution in New Orleans, Kaufman said there has not been an environmental assessment of all of the contaminants in the air "to allow the public back in, especially without respirators and other protective gear."

"This is the same situation that occurred in New York City after the Twin Towers came down," he said. "It's as outrageous as when (former EPA Administrator Christie) Whitman went on record just days after the attacks and said the air was OK to breathe."

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