Patience with FEMA is running thin up there at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In a three page letter sent today to FEMA Director Henry Paulison, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) express their "disappointment" with the agency over the testing for formaldehyde that is not happening on the many thousands of FEMA trailers on the Gulf Coast. See the letter here.
"In press releases, Congressional briefings and hearings, and in meetings with our subcommittee staff, FEMA has continually promised to test the trailers," the letter says. On Monday, FEMA spokesperson Mary Margaret Walker reiterated the timeline for when testing of occupied travel trailers would begin: "Soon".
"Soon" is not soon enough for Landrieu and Stevens, the heavies on the Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and by December 17th they want answers to a few key questions from the agency:
• When will FEMA allow the CDC to resume the testing?
• What is the agency going to do for disaster housing in the near term now that the trailer program is on hold?
• What plans are in place to remove all of the Gulf residents from trailers?
The letter specifically mentions our story from November 8th about internal FEMA emails that explicitly tell field staff to not enter any unoccupied trailers, even to work briefly, because of the danger of formaldehyde. On this issue the Committee asks: "…How does this exposure and its potential associated health risks differ from the potential health risks to families living in the same type of trailer for an extended amount of time?"
The Committee demands a prompt response from Paulison and FEMA to make sure there is an emergency housing plan ready for the next major disaster. "…we do not have the luxury of time or predictability when it comes to disasters." No we don't.