Hurricane Katrina: Environmental Pollution & Contamination

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The matter of Environmental Pollution and Contamination as a result of Hurricane Katrina which struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, is one which will continue to unfold for some time.

It could play out as a reason, or an excuse, or a justification, for demolishing parts of the city for complete rebuilding; or it could play out as a covered up story in order to rebuild quickly without clean-up, as was the case after the World Trade Center destruction in 2001.

In mid-September 2005 the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) criticized the government's "tight-lipped approach" in responding to requests for information about the toxic gumbo left by Hurricane Katrina. SEJ President Perry Beeman says the government is "denying the public crucial information collected with taxpayers' money on behalf of taxpayers in the first place. ... What we need to know is what exactly is in the water. Which bacteria and how much? Which gasoline and oil constituents and how much? Which carcinogens? Which pathogens? Americans need to know what specific threats exist and what the government is doing about them. They are paying for the raw data, and they deserve to see it." SEJ has prepared a timeline showing how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has responded to reporters' requests, as well as a new report on environmental reporters' experiences with the Freedom of Information Act. [1]

"Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan"

A DRAFT copy of the "Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan" (IEM/TEC04-070), dated August 6, 2004, (125-pdf) was posted online by MSNBC Media. The Plan was prepared under FEMA BPA HSFEHQ-04-A-0288, Task Order 001.

Pdf pages 11 through 18 address HAZMAT predictions and concerns.

Contamination Reports

"New test results released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency ... confirm that toxic chemicals contained in floodwaters in New Orleans and Metairie are in concentrations too small to be an immediate threat to humans," Mark Schleifstein of The Times-Picayune reported September 11, 2005.

"The floodwaters in New Orleans still pose a health risk because of dangerous levels of sewage-related bacteria and toxic chemicals, according to government test results released" September 14, 2005, Associated Press's John Heilprin reported.

Monitoring: Environmental Factors

Turning Point Model State Public Health Act (TPMSPHA) published September 16, 2003, and State Legislative Table as of November 10, 2004. In Louisiana:

  • Environmental Factors Database: "Creates an Environmental Health Surveillance System to develop a database to evaluate environmental factors, including physical, biological and social factors." Governor signed June 27, 2003.
  • Sanitary Code Violations: "Provides for the assessment of fines and penalties against those who violate the sanitary code, particularly related to provisions regarding isolation and quarantine." Governor signed July 6, 2004.

Monitoring: Public Health & Toxic Floodwaters

Following the evacuation of patients from New Orleans' Kindred Hospital on Friday, September 2, 2005, "government officials designated the facility as the nerve center for public-health monitoring in the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. ... state and federal officials moved in their own equipment and computer systems to transform the facility into a 'forward command' center that's monitoring and managing the public-health crisis posed by the toxic floodwaters." [2]

The hospital, as well as "71 other long-term acute-care hospitals and nursing homes in 24 states," is owned by Kindred Healthcare Inc. based in Louisville, Kentucky. [3]

Related SourceWatch Resources: Hurricane Katrina: List of related pages

External links