Other hazards to consider: dangerous traffic conditions because of lack of traffic lights, health hazards from unsafe water and waste, vulnerability to additional bad weather, and so forth.
I've been curious about how "tip of the iceberg" the reporting on the Ike aftermath has been. I know media attention swung over to the Wall Street implosion, but I've also had the sense that the media thought: what's the story here? a hurricane hit, homes were destroyed, ho hum, BTDT.
So here's the story, folks: what besides homes and local businesses were vulnerable to the hurricane? What else may have been destroyed? What else may be littering the roads, land, and water? or maybe I should ask, what else might be polluting my community?
I began thinking about this when I received my town's latest update:
As of today, Tuesday, September 16 at 7 pm, the City is without power and CenterPoint Energy has advised that it may take up to 3 weeks to restore power. . .
The city does have water. [Redacted] Water Authority advises the City that the tap water may not be potable. Residents are advised to use bottled water or boil the tap water for at least one minute at a rolling boil prior to using the tap water for potable purposes. The City will advise when the tap water is safe to drink.
Sewage drains to local lift stations, but because the power is out, the lift stations are non-functional and the sewage overflows and drains to the lakes. Please try to limit your use of water and create as little wastewater as possible in order to minimize the untreated sewage and pollution running into the lakes.
[Redacted] Lake is closed to recreation - swimming, boating, fishing, and water skiing. The Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority industrial wastewater treatment plant on Port Road was inundated during the storm and its ponds of untreated industrial and sanitary waste overflowed into [Redacted] Lake. The Lake may be contaminated with industrial pollutants (volatile organic and other compounds) and bacteriological contaminants. Residents should avoid all contact with [Redacted] Lake water until further notice. (emphasis mine)
City hall is running on a generator with limited services. The Mayor is working with FEMA and other emergency management officials to assess the damage. The City has declared an emergency and is working with state and federal agencies to address recovery.
Many trees are down in the City but the streets are now open.
There is still a dusk to dawn curfew.
The City is recommending the Head of Household only come and assess property damage, call your insurance agent, and start the removal of debris. Please separate organic waste (trees, limbs, etc.) and other waste and bring these items to the curb in 2 separate piles.
Pickup for HOUSEHOLD TRASH ONLY will begin Tuesday, September 16 and continue through the regular scheduled days of Tuesday and Friday. Please place the trashcans on the driveway near your garage.
Municipal Court has been canceled for Thursday, September 18. Defendants will be receiving a reset letter by mail notifying of a new court date.
I live by quite a few superfund sites---chemical and manufacturing plants. In fact, my area is home to "the nation's largest concentration of chemical plants and refineries," many of which are not even close to being in compliance with the EPA and other safety standards.
Were they inundated too?
What all else has my area been exposed to as a result of breaches from the hurricane?
I already know my area was unsafe and unhealthy, before Ike hit. I've blogged about it many times, testified before the EPA in an open hearing, and pestered when, who where and how I can to improve health and safety conditions in my community.
In my humble speculative opinion, there are a major vulnerabilities here:
* citizen vulnerability due to unsafe plants and businesses that are not in compliance with standards
* those selfsame plants and businesses were in vulnerable spots hit hard by Hurricane Ike
* what confidence or reassurance can residents have that their only "hazard" is from "wastewater plants?"
* the biggest vulnerability? Republican politicians who enable these businesses to keep the standards lower than is best and safest for people who live there, and who do not enforce compliance---right before an election.
I heard in many places that there has been a bit of a media blackout but I think it's more nefarious than that. Or cleverer. However you like to put it.
I think the media has been oh-so-carefully spoonfed a "oh look, wind and water damage, so sad, displaced families, out of business businesses, tragic, but...eh, not much to see here, right? so let's all move on along." Bored with images of houses reduced to twigs and stories of trees littering roadways, everyone has redirected their attention over to the next news cycle.
Come back media. Dig underneath the trees. There is more to the story than mere wind and water damage, and ask why---why were these dangerous plants so vulnerable? Who should have done what, instead?
Julie is considering how to provide stability and normality for her family, while displaced for longer than expected as a result of Ike and its aftermath.