Push to send FEMA trailers to Haiti stirs backlash

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Smashy, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. Smashy

    Smashy

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    Jan 29, 2010 (4:44p CST)
    By CARLY EVERSON (Associated Press Writer)

    INDIANAPOLIS - The trailer industry and lawmakers are pressing the government to send Haiti thousands of potentially formaldehyde-laced trailers left over from Hurricane Katrina - an idea denounced by some as a crass and self-serving attempt to dump inferior American products on the poor.

    "Just go ahead and sign their death certificate," said Paul Nelson of Coden, Ala., who contends his mother died because of formaldehyde fumes in a FEMA trailer.

    [​IMG]

    The 100,000 trailers became a symbol of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's bungled response to Katrina. The government had bought the trailers to house victims of the 2005 storm, but after people began falling ill, high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that is used in building materials and can cause breathing problems and perhaps cancer, were found inside. Many of the trailers have sat idle for years, and many are damaged.

    The U.S. Agency for International Development, which is coordinating American assistance in Haiti, has expressed no interest in sending the trailers to the earthquake-stricken country. FEMA spokesman Clark Stevens declined to comment on the idea and said it was not FEMA's decision to make.

    Haitian Culture and Communications Minister Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said Thursday she had not heard of the proposal but added: "I don't think we would use them. I don't think we would accept them."

    In a Jan. 15 letter to FEMA, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the trailers could be used as temporary shelter or emergency clinics.

    "While I continue to believe that these units should not be used for human habitation, I do believe that they could be of some benefit on a short-term, limited basis if the appropriate safeguards are provided," he wrote.

    For the recreational-vehicle and trailer industry, which lost thousands of jobs during the recession, the push to send the units to Haiti is motivated by more than charity.

    Bidding is under way in an online government-run auction to sell the trailers in large lots at bargain-basement prices - something the RV industry fears will reduce demand for new products. Some of the bids received so far work out to less than $500 for a trailer that would sell for about $20,000 new.

    Lobbyists for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association - which includes some major manufacturers in Elkhart, Ind., among them Gulf Stream - have been talking with members of Congress, the government and disaster relief agencies to see if it would be possible to send the trailers to Haiti instead.

    "This isn't really the best time for the RV industry to have very low-priced trailers put out onto the market," said the group's spokesman, Kevin Broom.

    How much formaldehyde the trailers contain - or if they still have any at all - isn't known. The auction site warns that the trailers may not have been tested for the chemical, and FEMA said buyers must sign an agreement not to use the auctioned trailers for housing. Broom contends the majority are "perfectly safe," and "the handful of trailers that might have a problem" can be removed.

    Though the formaldehyde fumes in the trailers may have lessened with time, Haiti's hot, humid weather would boost the amount released, said Becky Gillette, the formaldehyde campaign director for the Sierra Club.

    Lindsay Huckabee, who blames a rash of illnesses on the two years she lived with her husband and five children in FEMA trailers in Kiln, Miss., said that while "some shelter is better than no shelter," sending FEMA trailers is a bad idea without tight controls and warnings.

    "I think it's very self-serving to hand off a product that's not good enough for Americans and say, 'Hey, we're doing a good thing here,'" she said.

    In Haiti, Ermite Bellande said she has had no shelter since losing her three-story house. Still, she doesn't want one of the trailers. "We have nothing," she lamented. "But I would rather sleep outside than be in a metal box full of chemicals."

    Joseph Pacious, who was hoping to find shelter at a tent city near the Port-au-Prince airport, disagreed. "The trailers may be hot, and they may make us sick," he said. "But look at how we are living already. How bad can it be?"

    Myriam Bellevu, who is sleeping in a tent because she does not feel safe in her damaged home, said: "If the trailers are not good, the Americans must keep them for themselves. It's true that we are poor, but if they want to help, they must help in a good way."

    Among the lawmakers backing the idea is Mississippi state Sen. Billy Hewes.

    "If I had the choice between no shelter and having the opportunity of living in a shelter that might have some fumes, I know what I'd choose," he said. "If these trailers were good enough for Mississippians, I would think they were good enough for folks down in Haiti as well."

    On the Net:

    http://gsaauctions.gov/gsaauctions/auctsctrl



    http://kai03.qwest.com/WindowsLive/[email protected]&client=landingpage&qid=0#
     
  2. farmer-dave

    farmer-dave

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    I wouldn't mind buying a 500 dollar trailer, with a plan to gut it and remodel.
     

  3. silentpoet

    silentpoet

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    It is sad when even the poorest country in the hemisphere does not want your hand me downs.
     
  4. eisman

    eisman ARGH! CLM

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    The trailers are for sale, the average lot is about 400 at a time, and you have to remove them in 48 hours. It's the size of the lots and the other requirements of the bid contracts that limit the availablity of this surplus to a very few individuals. The ones I've seen have suffered more from sitting unused than anything else.
     
  5. kahrcarrier

    kahrcarrier FAHRENHEIT

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    Every new trailer I have ever been in smelled of formaldahyde.


    It will air out and dissipate after a time.
     
  6. Twisted Steel

    Twisted Steel And Sex Appeal

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    I would bet keeping the windows open would be enough. Any new home emits an amount of the same things the first months or years. I moved into a new apartment and had the same issue. I would open the windows and vent the air, and after a few months, it stopped being a problem. After a while, the gases won't be a problem, but when it's new, it needs to be vented.

    If they took them to Haiti, and left the windows open, it would be okay. I doubt there is going to be any electricity for a while, so they would have to keep the windows open.
     
  7. paynter2

    paynter2 It ain't over Millennium Member

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  8. wjv

    wjv RIP Stan Lee.. . .

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    Yup. Our RV took only a couple weeks to air out. . .

    Once again, lawmakers and journalist are spouting off about something that they have ZERO knowledge about. . .
     
  9. engineer151515

    engineer151515

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    Were these built any differently than industry standard pre-Katrina?

    I think not.
     
  10. luckyrxc

    luckyrxc

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    I've been in new trailers on the sales lot that were so bad my eyes burned and I got a headache. I went in the same trailer a few weeks later and it just had that 'new trailer smell'. All the bad stuff was gone. That was in the hot idaho summer which I suspect helps to flash off the nasty stuff.
     
  11. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine

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    Exactly.
    Just more BS from government agencies that want it to appear that they are doing something constructive, when actually their only job is trying to protect their phony government job.:upeyes:
     
  12. fireguy129

    fireguy129

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    Hell, smash them up with an excavator and send Haiti the footage. Beggars can't be choosers, and Im sure with the windows open they're mansions compared to sleeping on the ground.
     
  13. Bruce H

    Bruce H

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    When we set our 16X80 it was just five days out of the factory. We opened the windows for about ten days and everything was fine. There is no lingering odor either. I suppose everyone that moved into one had to run the air conditioning instead of airing it out.
     
  14. treeline

    treeline

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    If memory serves the suggestion was that some of these trailers were built differently. They were made more quickly than usual and some step that involved heating and attending dissipation of formaldahyde was done badly. A combination of higher than usual remaining formaldahyde and a hot region made the normal new trailer release of gas much higher than usual.

    Even if they had problems, how hard would it be to have some guy go round and check them? Surely after this time the majority of gas would have gone?

    Looking at the photos of Haitai before the quake, a lot of homes were shacks. These trailers would be ideal replacements, a big step up.
     
  15. Critias

    Critias Freelancer CLM

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    Seriously? Two years, they had to be in a FEMA trailer?
     
  16. farmer-dave

    farmer-dave

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    Well I'm in for a glocktalk group buy.
     
  17. engineer151515

    engineer151515

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    Good note
     
  18. JuneyBooney

    JuneyBooney

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    I think the trailers are an excellent idea.
     
  19. Tailhunter

    Tailhunter Glockman

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    Let 'em take care of themselves .......
     
  20. Glenn129

    Glenn129

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    The formaldehyde smelled better than some of the former inhabitants. I see no use to send these trailers to Haiti. I saw some of them still cursing the US on tv the other night.