Friday, July 20, 2007

FEMA discouraged tests of trailers for hurricane victims

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

FEMA provided more than 120,000 trailers to people displaced during hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Many thousands of people still occupy the trailers, especially in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

When complaints of possible formaldehyde poisoning surfaced early last year, FEMA officials tested one occupied trailer and announced "there is no ongoing risk."

But documents show the levels of formaldehyde found were higher than those considered safe by several government health and environment agencies.

The House committee unearthed documents in which one FEMA lawyer advised: "Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK. ... Once you get results ... the clock is running on our duty to respond to them."

Paulison said the criticism was unfair because it was being done in hindsight. He told the committee, "There is no existing consensus on safe formaldehyde levels in residential dwellings."

Agency employees urged people worried about formaldehyde to open and "air out" the trailers because, Paulison said, that was the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control.

Paulison said he now realized that was inadequate, partly because the Gulf Coast's summer temperatures make air conditioning, with the windows closed, essential in trailers.

here for more.

You know, I thought these Bozos couldn't surprise me anymore. How fucking retarded can people be? Test one trailer and conclude they're all safe? And, my god, the test results indicated that this one trailer was actually unsafe! All the Katrina failures and all the outrage that followed apparently didn't count for diddly squat. FEMA is still fucked up.

But then, this is totally in keeping with how pathetically slow the recovery is.

Hey, this is a chance to have some fun with right-wing economics. The "free market" people are pretty much of the opinion that the private sector can always do a better job than the government. Well, the government is really failing badly here with the post-Katrina recovery. In theory, "market forces" ought to rush in and take care of things quite nicely. But, oh damn, that's not happening. New Orleans, and other areas, are still in massive disarray.

Lesson: there are a great many things that the private sector simply cannot or will not do. For some jobs, only the government is capable and willing. When you have competent people running the government, that is.

How I hope the rest of hurricane season is calm.