Yesterday as Christie Whitman was grilled by Congress on the air quality at Ground Zero post 9/11, the GAO released a report (pdf) on the EPA’s efforts on the Gulf Coast post Katrina. The GAO concluded their efforts could have been “enhanced.”
One of the main findings involves monitoring of asbestos in the air.
However, as cleanup continues, EPA’s assurance that public health is protected from risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers is limited because the agency has not deployed air monitors in and around New Orleans neighborhoods where demolition and renovation activities are concentrated.
After Katrina the EPA more than doubled, from 5 to 12, the number of the ambient (outdoor) air monitors in the New Orleans area prior to the storm. In July 2006 however they scaled back the number of monitors to the pre-storm level of 5 and reduced the frequency of sampling of the air in part because “no measurable amounts of asbestos fibers were found.” The GAO points out the problem with this…
However, because the demolition activities in the New Orleans area generally did not start until 7 or more months after Hurricane Katrina, EPA’s cutback in asbestos air monitoring occurred before (1) most of the demolitions that are now completed had taken place and (2) the substantial number of remaining demolitions had begun.
The GAO also found that monitors “generally have not been located in areas in which much of the building demolition and renovation is occurring.” For example they cited none were in the lower 9th ward.
Regarding informing the public of the potential health risks from environmental contaminations in NOLA, the GAO found the EPA effort to be insufficient beginning with having left out the important fact that all sediment samples were taken Outdoors…