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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hooray for... FEMA?

Yes, the same FEMA that had bungled the rescue operation for weeks is now acting more responsibly (perhaps because they bungled the rescue operation for weeks and have to do the right thing now).

New FEMA Director Allen is calling out Mayor Nagin on his decision to send people back into the area, citing, among other things, the health threat. The AP reports:

NEW ORLEANS - The mayor of New Orleans has set up an "extremely problematic" timeline for allowing residents to return to the evacuated city, which is still threatened by a weakened levee system, a lack of drinkable water and heavily polluted floodwaters, the head of the federal relief effort said Saturday.

Not only that, Mayor Nagin's own Homeland Security Director Terry Ebbert also seems to be separating himself from the Mayor, saying the French Quarter will be monitored "day to day" and wouldn't commit to the Mayor's promise to have people back in there within a week and a half.

Finally, FEMA is doing the right thing by taking all precautions for their people:

Allen said another concern for returning residents is the flood water that remains on the streets and in houses, the residue of which remains throughout flooded areas that are now dry and is also a health threat. Allen said troops undergo decontamination after they are done working in the water. "They are decontaminating themselves as they would if they were operating in a toxic environment," he said.

Until there is scientifically sound and validated environmental air, soil, and water testing in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, any sort of declarative statements about the quality of the environment and relative safety need to stop, and Mayor Nagin and the EPA need to tell people that if they return, they could possibly be walking into a toxic disaster that will have long-term health effects. If toxic decontamination procedures are good enough for the troops they are good enough for the citizens of the area who are being told to come back home.

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  • We are a group of former Congressional staff, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff, and environmental group staff tracking and analyzing the news, in real time, from New Orleans from an environmental health perspective.

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