September 14, 2005

Katrina's Toxic Secrets

What we are not hearing about may kill us; at least some of us. The toxins that have been mixed in with the water that inundated New Orleans is a deadly stew of poisons that the Bush government would rather no one talk about. The very fact that this toxic mix is being pumped back into Lake Pontchartrain and then into the Gulf of Mexico is also being ignored. But not by everyone.

Hugh Kauffman, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency who specializes in emergency response, spilled the beans on Air America radio. Kauffman said: "All of the oil and chemical companies that own storage tanks, facilities in that area that were flooded or impacted are required to publish with our regional office in Dallas instantly—whenever there’s a release; whenever there’s a breakage from pipelines, from storage tanks, refineries. The regional office, under orders, is not releasing that information to the public..."

It's also been more than a week since the Times-Picayune and the Society for Environmental Journalists filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Environmental Protection Agency to release information it has regarding the specific toxins that were leaked by chemical and oil companies into the water that flooded New Orleans. According to the Society for Environmental Journalists, "The federal government's compliance with FOIA began to deteriorate in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to an SEJ report -- "A Flawed Tool -- Environmental Reporters' Experiences with the Freedom of Information Act" -- released Monday."

To make matters worse, the SEJ says that not only have government delays in responding to FOIA requests increased, but when responses finally do come, huge amounts of data are deleted.

1 comment:

jmcmaster said...

A little perspective on the costs of FOIA requests. The People For the American Way was told its request for documents about people detained as part of government anti-terrorism efforts would cost nearly $400,000. Not only that requests for information under the FOIA has more than quadrupled over the past six years. In 2003 the number of Federal agencies that reported a backlog in FOIA requests was 7, this doubled by the end of 2004 to 14. Seems we are both on the "secret tip" today.