FEMA responds at theirwebsite to theCBS news story on how emails show the agency prohibited their employees from entering trailers due to dangerous formaldehyde levels. It is a great example of truthiness as FEMA focuses on unoccupied trailers and testing at their request.
In their release, FEMA reports that the emails in which employees asked for guidance on entering trailers “applies only to the stored and sealed trailers on storage lots.”
FEMA is making a distinction between occupied and unoccupied trailers stating employees enter occupied trailers “everyday.” They maintain that formaldehyde “dissipates in the open air when a window or door is left open after a few days or weeks” but in the case of closed stored trailers “there is no opportunity for this chemical to dissipate.” and “thus, the basis for the notice to FEMA employees.”
They then go on to discuss FEMA testing of unoccupied trailers stating that began in 2006 and that “all tests showed levels below the limits set by the OSHA.”
This is quite interesting even disingenuous given tests were conducted in 2005 by none other than OSHA. First there is this fromMSNBC…
Despite the Sierra Club tests –and air quality testing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in November that detected formaldehyde levels at FEMA trailer holding stations on the Gulf Coast as high as 5.0 parts per million, or 50 times the EPA’s “elevated” level – FEMA says the trailers are safe and there is no need for it to conduct its own air-quality testing.(my emphasis)
But here is a more detailed account on the OSHA testing from Jesse Fineran, a former Hancock County Emergency Operations Center hazardous material specialist who worked in conjunction with FEMA following Katrina. From theSea Coast Echo…
Tests were done in trailers in November 2005 at a staging lot in Kiln, Fineran said. The tests, conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, showed not only above-normal levels in the trailers, but the background level around the staging area was also elevated, Fineran said.
“They knew people were suffering,” Fineran said.
On December 14, 2005, a daily report of the meetings made by Fineran stated an official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found formaldehyde in FEMA trailers at a Kiln staging area. The data was provided to Bechtel, the contractor responsible for transporting and setup of trailers. Fineran said both Sid Melton, now chief of operations in Mississippi, and Michael Andrews, chief of mobile home operations in Mississippi, received the OSHA report in December 2005.
FEMA knew. They were just hoping you would never know. They still hope for that.