chemicals in the air, which is a public health threat. Compliance with environmental justice guidelines requires the involvement of the affected community in the safe removal and disposal of waste.

Compliance with environmental and public health laws: Rigorous compliance with all existing environmental public health laws and standards, including the federal executive order concerning environmental justice, is still needed in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast, noted Harden.

To protect public health and the public’s right to return, EPA needs to convene monthly public meetings with communities in coordination with community-based organizations and relevant agencies to monitor, assess the risk, and remediate public health threats in hurricane-affected areas.

What is needed now is the development of policies that strengthen the capacities of local, state, and federal health providers to respond effectively to toxic exposures and prioritize publicly accessible environmental health monitoring, assessment, and remediation by EPA and local agencies in times of disaster, concluded Harden. To begin to address this, she suggested that additional work was needed in several areas:

  • Develop environmentally sustainable initiatives and policies for safe distances between residential communities and toxic waste sites.

  • Construct hurricane-resistant green buildings.

  • Investigate flood protection infrastructure.

  • Preserve and restore wetlands and coastal areas that can mitigate the impacts of future hurricane damage.

  • Diversify energy sources to thwart the impacts of climate change and more intense hurricanes.

  • Replace harmful industrial manufacturing with safe alternative materials and processes.

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