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Partnerships for Change
NRDC has worked with many community-based organizations to defend people's right to a safe and healthy environment.

from Katrina
Fighting for Green Space Cleaning Up Anacostia
Shielding Children from Pesticide Exposure Improving
Air Quality
in an Urban Neighborhood
Working for Justice in West Harlem Forcing Nuclear Waste Clean-up

Recovering from Katrina
Greater New Orleans region, 2005 - present day

Photo of NRDC senior scientist Gina Solomon and research associate Mayra Quirindongo
NRDC senior scientist Gina Solomon and research associate Mayra Quirindongo prepare to test for mold at a home in New Orleans in October 2005.

The Challenge: Hurricane Katrina did more than destroy human life and property in the New Orleans region -- it created an environmental disaster of unprecedented scope, swamping aging water and sewage systems, sweeping more than 8 million gallons of oil and toxic chemicals out of industrial and abandoned toxic waste sites into residential areas, spurring dangerously high levels of mold growth, and generating enough trash to cover 1,000 football fields with a 6-story-high pile of garbage. In addition, Katrina exposed a harsh truth about social and racial inequity in the New Orleans area. While the storm's fury seemed indiscriminate, low-income communities of color suffered more. For decades, polluting entities such as petrochemical plants, toxic waste sites, and oil refineries had been sited in these neighborhoods, creating Louisiana's infamous Cancer Alley; now the injustice was intensified as these neighborhoods were flooded with a toxic brew of spilled fuel, sewage and chemicals. And in the storm's aftermath, residents started returning to moldy, contaminated, flood-damaged homes without information about potential risks to their health, as the EPA neglected its duty to evaluate and inform the public of environmental health threats.

Working Together: In the weeks following the storm, local community groups worked with NRDC's scientific, legal and communications experts to help fill the information gap and get the word out, both at home and in Washington, about environmental health threats in the wake of Katrina. Working closely with the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Louisiana, and Louisiana Bucket Brigade, NRDC collected sorely needed data identifying toxic contaminants in locations throughout the New Orleans region. The results demonstrated widespread contamination in residential areas, especially near toxic "hot spots" such as the Agricultural Street Landfill in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward. Together, NRDC and local partners released an independent assessment of post-Katrina environmental health hazards, warning residents of dangerous levels of mold in the air and of toxic chemicals (such as arsenic) in sediments, and providing much-needed health advisories and safe clean-up tips for returning residents.

Today: NRDC continues to conduct environmental testing in New Orleans in partnership with local groups, and is pushing state and federal environmental authorities to protect low-income communities of color. Together, we're initiating action to remove toxic sediment and contaminated soil from the yards and streets of affected communities. We're assessing the scope and nature of the hazards due to mold, contaminated sediment, and other environmental health threats, and providing detailed information for residents on how to protect themselves and their families. And in the long run, we're working with local communities to ensure an environmentally safe, just and "green" rebuilding of New Orleans.

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