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Would you want to move to New Orleans?

As usual, the government is downplaying long-term health risks posed by waste and chemicals in sediment left in the New Orleans area after Katrina, leaving the impression that it’s OK for folks to move back. After reading this, would you move into this toxic mess? (USA Today):

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, and several local Louisiana environmental groups said that heavy metals, petroleum components and pesticides in the dusty residue left behind by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters pose such a risk that families with children shouldn’t return until it is cleaned up.

“The cancer risk and the risk of other long-term health effects is quite significant according to (federal) standards,” said Gina Solomon, a physician with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The groups, including the non-profit Advocates for Environmental Human Rights law firm in Louisiana, based their assessment on tests they conducted in September and October.

Some of the data sounds outrageously bad. How on earth can people ignore this:

Average levels of arsenic that are 31 times higher than the level at which federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines require that soil in residential areas be cleaned up.

Levels of pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin exceeded EPA cleanup standards in soil samples just west of the French Quarter.

High levels of cancer-causing hydrocarbons from petroleum products near a federal toxic waste site in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood northeast of the French Quarter. Tests found levels as much as 20 times higher than EPA cleanup standards.

What does the the EPA have to say about this?

The government agencies recommend that residents take simple precautions when exposed to sediment, such as wearing respirators and washing exposed skin. However, Shepherd said, the state sees “no immediate health issues” that should concern the public.

Folks, much of the city will need to be razed, and a portion may be uninhabitable for years to come — but don’t expect the government to ever tell people this.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding