Authors: Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
Five years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, much of our work at the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice has been focused on research, policy, community outreach and assistance, and education needs of the displaced minority population of New Orleans.
Environmental Remediation Training
We continue to monitor critical issues of health and environmental restoration for fairness as it relates to standards of cleanup for re-settlement. In the area of jobs and economic development, the center has been engaged in job training and placement related to environmental cleanup. Our focus has been on providing displaced citizens of New Orleans with job training and job placement through our Minority Worker Training and Technology-Based Learning Training.
A Safe Way Back Home Project
The floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina contaminated soil throughout New Orleans. This made it unsafe for families to return to their homes and for children to play in their yards. Environmentalists came together with the United Steelworkers in an unusual partnership to launch A Safe Way Back Home, an initiative to decontaminate the soil and make New Orleans safe for residents again.
A Safe Way Back Home teaches neighborhood residents whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Katrina about the contaminated soil in their neighborhoods. It also offers training for residents to take proactive steps to remove the contaminants from their community.
Through environmental education and training, A Safe Way Back Home has helped many displaced residents empower themselves to take action and create a clean and safe home environment. Two local schoolyards were remediated to ensure our kids are playing in a safe and clean environment. The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice has partnered with the Evangelical Lutheran Church to continue soil remediation clean-up efforts at local schools throughout the New Orleans area.
Public Policy Task Force
As reconstruction and rebuilding move forward in New Orleans and the coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, it is clear that the disaster of lethargic and inept emergency response after Hurricane Katrina overshadowed the deadly storm itself. To help overcome that catastrophe of human choices and failures, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice has developed a Public Policy Task Force. The Task Force monitors recovery and rebuilding efforts in the region for fairness as it relates to health and the environment. Members of the Task Force include DSCEJ Staff, other invited experts, and key community partners. The Task Force has issued and will publish working papers and reports to improve local practice and inform policy. It has also established advisory working groups in key problem areas including public health, environment, public infrastructure, education and waste management.
After five years, Hurricane Katrina and the inept response to it still cast a dark shadow on New Orleans. But the relentless spirit of the people, manifested in teaching, learning, and action, is steadily dispelling that shadow and returning the city to the light.