THEM EAT DIRT: Will the "Mother of All Toxic Cleanups" Be Fair to
All NOLA Neighborhoods, Even When Some Contamination Predates Katrina?
By Robert D. Bullard
Hurricane Katrina has been described as a one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S history. A September Business Week commentary described the handling of the untold tons of "lethal goop" as the "mother of all toxic cleanups." However, the billion dollar question facing New Orleans is which neighborhoods will get cleaned up and which ones will be left contaminated. Sediments of varying depths were left behind by receding Katrina floodwaters primarily in areas impacted by levee overtopping and breaches. More than 100,000 of New Orleans 180,000 houses were flooded, and half sat for days or weeks in more than six feet of water. Returning residents are getting mixed signals from government agencies when it comes to contamination and potential public health threats. Government and independent scientists remain worlds apart and offer divergent interpretations of what contamination is in the ground, how harmful it is to returning residents, and the appropriate remediation plan. Just this past week, a multi-agency task force issued a press release, Release of Multi-Agency Report Shows Elevated Lead Levels in New Orleans Soil, Consistent with Historic Levels of Urban Lead, that appears to endorse the notion that it's acceptable for New Orleans residents to return to neighborhoods with elevated lead if those same neighborhoods were polluted before Katrina. The federal EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality recommend that "residents in the vicinity protect themselves and their children from potential exposure to lead in the home and in the surrounding soil of their neighborhoods." Instead of cleaning up the mess, government officials appear to be taking the position that "dirty neighborhoods should stay dirty forever." The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University (DSCEJ) in partnership with the United Steelworkers (USW) have undertaken A Safe Way Back Home pilot neighborhood clean-up project-the first of its kind in New Orleans. Click HERE to view the full article.