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NRDC soil testing in 116 locations around New Orleans in March 2007 revealed that six schools, two playgrounds, and four residential areas had more than 12 milligrams per kilogram of arsenic in the soil, a level that exceeds the cleanup guidelines recommended by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

More widespread sampling is needed to determine the full extent of the problem, and individual assessments of each site are necessary to determine the level of health risk.

The following schools and playgrounds exceed the 12 mg/kg cleanup guideline.

McDonogh Elementary School (#42) Mid-City 34.4 mg/kg
Dibert Elementary School Mid-City 22.8 mg/kg
Drew Elementary School St. Claude 20.3 mg/kg
Schabel Playspot Gentilly 19.3 mg/kg
Alexander Milne Playground Gentilly 18 mg/kg
Craig Elementary School Mid-City 16.1 mg/kg
McMain Magnet Secondary School Uptown/Carrollton 12.6 mg/kg
Medard H. Nelson Elementary School Uptown/Carrollton 12.4 mg/kg


Arsenic Cleanup Measures

If you are interested in organizing a cleanup on your block or at your child's school, contact the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, a group that is providing training for residents in safe cleanup techniques. Arsenic cleanup measures include removing the first 6 inches of topsoil, safely disposing of the contaminated soil, and then replacing it with 6 inches of fresh topsoil. For an average-size single-family home, the cost of completing the remediation, including soil hazardous material disposal fees and equipment rental, is between $3,500 and $5,000.

In the meantime, residents can take the following immediate precautions:

  • Do not let small children play in areas where there are patches of bare soil.
  • Make sure children wash their hands immediately after playing outside and before eating.
  • Take off shoes before entering homes or FEMA trailers to avoid tracking soil inside.
  • Avoid planting fruit or vegetable gardens until soil is tested or replaced.
  • Wear heavy-duty work gloves if you're working in a contaminated area and will come into contact with soil or dust -- and wash afterwards.
  • Avoid sweeping up dust outside your house - it can fly into the air and be inhaled more easily. Wet down the dust first, and then either wash it away or sweep it when it's wet.

RELATED PAGES
Rebuilding New Orleans
On the Ground in New Orleans: Photo Journal
Environmental Policy Discussions After Hurricane Katrina

last revised 8.24.07

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