It's like a bad story that never seems to go away. What happened during the aftermath of Katrina keeps resurfacing in all sorts of ways. This time it's the infamous FEMA trailers used to house so many thousands of displaced people. They're re-surfacing in the Gulf region and despite a Federal Government ban on using them for residential purposes, workers involved with the cleanup of the oil spill are living in them
. In many cases they are being provided by the companies they are working for.
Ron Mason, owner of a disaster contracting firm, Alpha 1, said that in the past two weeks he had sold more than 20 of the trailers to cleanup workers and the companies that employ them in Venice and Grand Isle, La.
Even though federal regulators have said the trailers are not to be used for housing because of formaldehyde’s health risks, Mr. Mason said some of these workers had bought them so they could be together with their wives and children after work.
“These are perfectly good trailers,” Mr. Mason said, adding that he has leased land in and around Venice for 40 more trailers that are being delivered from Texas in the coming weeks. “Look, you know that new car smell? Well, that’s formaldehyde, too. The stuff is in everything. It’s not a big deal.”
I just love how private contractors get to skirt federal regulations and brush it of like it's simply a funny smell. They have been proven that they are not perfectly safe to reside in. There was a reason that FEMA decided to get rid of these trailers. From Wapo, May 2008
Formaldehyde -- an industrial chemical that can cause nasal cancer, may be linked to leukemia, and worsens asthma and respiratory problems -- was present in many of the FEMA housing units in amounts exceeding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended 15-minute exposure limit for workers, the limit at which acute health symptoms begin to appear in sensitive individuals.
Weak government contracting, sloppy private construction, a surge of low-quality wood imports from China and inconsistent regulation all contributed to the crisis, a Washington Post review found. But each of the key players has pointed fingers at others, a chain of blame with a cost that will not be known for years.
It's been common knowledge for years how dangerous these trailors were for residential use. That was why it the concern was raised in the House last April, when the federal Government decided to sell off as many as they could instead of paying for the cost of storing them. From the NYT:
The trailers are “not intended to be used as housing,” said David Garratt, FEMA’s associate administrator for mission support. “Subsequent owners must continue to similarly inform subsequent buyers for the life of the unit.”
These rules are not being followed in many cases, however. Officials with the inspector general’s office of the General Services Administration said Wednesday that they had opened at least seven cases concerning buyers who might not have posted the certification and formaldehyde warnings on trailers they sold.
It seems as tho not only are the potential residents -- and their families -- of the trailers are not being told, many placards that the federal government required to be placed on them are missing.
There is no excuse for the reckless behavior by these disaster recovery companies to once again prey on unsuspecting Americans. It was a terrible mistake for the Obama administration to assume that these contractors and businesses would do the right thing. They are not, and despite the cost it may be to all taxpayers, perhaps the remaining FEMA trailers leftover from Katrina should be destroyed once and for all. From Eugene Robinson this March:
Officials told The Post that there would be little demand for the trailers because so many are in poor condition, having sat unoccupied and unattended for so long. But my guess is that if problems such as mold, mildew and propane-gas leaks drive retail prices even lower, the number of potential buyers is only likely to increase. Things are tough out there, and even a musty trailer -- with a warning sticker -- is a more comfortable place to sleep than the back seat of a car.
Well, because of recent events, the demand for housing has returned, and sadly, so have these horrible trailers. People need a place to stay, and companies are more than willing to use unfortunate situations to their greedy advantage.
Once again the Ghost of Katrina shows itself in the Gulf region. It seems like it will never go away.