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Fact Sheet: Casualties of Katrina

September 15th, 2007

Demographics

* An estimated 67 percent of the city's nearly half million pre-Katrina population is back.

* The per capita income in New Orleans is $17,258 according to the U.S. Census. 28 percent of the population and almost a quarter of families are below the poverty line. The number of poor under age 18 is even higher, at 40 percent.

* Before Katrina, the city was 67 percent African American, 28 percent white, and 3 percent Hispanic. Today's population is 76 percent black, only 19 percent white, and 1.4 percent Latino.

* U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that the national average of cancer deaths per 10,000 people is 199.8. In Louisiana, the number is 230.4. The state's cancer mortality rate ranked second highest in the nation in 2003. And African Americans are more likely than whites to have and die from lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers – all of which have been linked to prolonged chemical exposure.

Housing

* ICF International of Virginia was awarded a $756 million contract to run the $7.5 billion Road Home Program, as well as an $869 million rental aid program.

* Yet an estimated 50,000 eligible applicants, out of a total of more than 180,000, may never receive their checks.

* Louisiana House of Representatives approved a resolution by 97-1 in December, demanding that Governor Blanco cancel ICF's contract.

Electricity

* Entergy Louisiana rate hikes for Grand Bayou, Louisiana: $70 a month.

* Entergy Louisiana rate hikes for most other state residents: $2-3 a month.

* Entergy New Orleans federal bail out package for post-Katrina expenses: $592 million.

* Entergy Corporation annual revenues: $10.9 billion in 2006.

* Entergy Corporation stock price in April 2007: $117 per share, up 68 percent from the year before.


Insurance

* Whistleblowers from insurance giant State Farm allege that the company billed the federally funded National Flood Insurance Program 66 percent extra on Louisiana's flood claims, which could add up to as much as $9.24 billion.

* In one example, a lawsuit claims that State Farm had the National Flood Insurance Program pay a homeowner $88,280 for flood damages – even though the floodwaters never reached the house. Adjusters say that the home actually had $110,918 in wind damage, but because the company shifted blame from wind to water damage (which is covered by the federal government), State Farm had to pay only $5,379 on its homeowner's policy.

* State Farm calculated $45,000 in flood damage to a home in Jefferson Parish, and stated that the flood had damaged the roof – despite the fact that the house got only eight inches of water.

* State Farm settled 640 insurance cases in Mississippi for $80 million.

Levees

* Moving Water Industries Corporation (MWI) of Deerfield Beach, Florida, custom-designed and built pumps for Gulf Coast levees under a $26.6 million contract. Maria Garzino, a U.S. Army Corps mechanical engineer who was overseeing the testing, wrote that the pumps were defective, and experienced “catastrophic failure” even when tested under easy conditions. They would certainly break down, she wrote, “should they be tasked to run under normal use, as would be required in the event of a hurricane.”

MWI is owned by J. David Eller, who was once a business partner of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. (From 1989 to 1993 the two operated the company Bush-El, which marketed MWI pumps.)

Debris

Three dumps for Hurricane Katrina debris have been opened near the Vietnamese community of Village de l'Est.

* The Chef Menteur dump site, operated by Waste Management Inc., is bordered by the Maxent Canal that the Vietnamese residents use for fishing and aquatic gardening. Rainwater and groundwater seeped into the landfill, mixed with toxic building materials and household chemicals, and was eventually pumped into the canal. To allow the dump’s opening, the city of New Orleans issued a zoning waiver to Waste Management in exchange for a 22 percent share of the landfill's profits.

* The Old Gentilly landfill was opened in October 2005 on top of an old landfill that state regulators had shut down in the 1980s. By March 2007, the dump had generated $33 million in fees for its operators, local companies Metro Disposal Inc. and AMID Landfill LLC. Yet the new debris sits on top of the old landfill, an unlined pit that holds many hazardous substances that are no longer allowed in landfills. The weight of the added debris, which can be stacked to a height of 25 feet, may force contaminated water out of the landfill and into the ground water.

* The Almonaster Boulevard dump is illegal. Walls of rusty cars, pulled out of flooded New Orleans neighborhoods, have been stacked on top of each other.
Hamp's Enterprises and Shamrock Demolition Waste Haulers have been identified dumping waste in this area.

(Both companies are government sub-contractors. Hamp’s has a sub-contract to help demolish the old army barracks that serve as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard. Shamrock has a part of a $2 million FEMA contract to dispose of debris from 35 flood-damaged public schools.)

Environment

* Hurricane Katrina removed 175 square miles of important wetlands that form a natural buffer zone with important implications for how fast the city falls below sea level.

* A United States Geological Survey (USGS) study found that New Orleans is sinking more than three feet per century. Currently, New Orleans, on average, is eight feet below sea level and drops off to 11 feet in some places.

* Louisiana’s Cancer Alley has some 260 industrial facilities within a seven-mile radius.

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report in September 2005 that concluded the sludge samples taken in the flooded areas contained more than 183 toxic chemicals.

* During Hurricane Katrina, one of the tanks at the Murphy Oil refinery in St. Bernard Parish spilled about a million gallons of crude oil into the surrounding neighborhood.

* Two years after Katrina, the neighborhood still isn't fully cleaned up. Murphy paid to remove the topsoil around the 1,700 contaminated homes, but some residents are still waiting for the replacement sod to arrive.

* Marathon Oil is seeking to expand their oil refinery at a time of skyrocketing demand around the world, and record profits for oil companies. According to Marathon's CEO, the Louisiana refinery expansion will generate $350 million in new revenue each year.

* The Louisiana State Bond Commission provided $1 billion in tax-free GO Zone bonds to Marathon.

* Marathon reported $60 billion in revenues in 2006. The company also reported $5 billion in profits, up 72 percent from 2005.

Casinos

* Before Katrina, the Biloxi and Gulfport river boat casinos employed about 14,000 people and were providing state tax revenues of $15 million a month. After the storm, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour allowed the casinos to move their gaming rooms onto dry land as long as they stayed within 800 feet of the water's edge.

* The nine casinos in Biloxi took in $418.7 million in the first five months of 2005.

* In the first five months of 2007, only seven casinos were up and running, but they collectively took in $428.3 million.

* Boomtown New Orleans booked $83 million in profit last year, nearly triple its pre-Katrina best.

* In mid-August, construction workers broke ground on the new $700 million Margaritaville casino and resort, a 46-acre complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities, backed by singer Jimmy Buffet.

* Although the casinos have done well, not everyone else in Biloxi has – local Vietnamese shrimp fisherman are still out of work. Town residents are still waiting to hear how the state of Mississippi will parcel out federal aid.

Labor

* In August 2005 official unemployment rates had hit 8.9 percent in New Orleans, while those in the surrounding suburbs were at 16.8 percent.       

* Some 50,000 workers, mostly from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Peru, came to the flooded region to help with the rebuilding and clean-up efforts at minimum wage.

* Many paid out $3,000 to $5,000 to middlemen along with government fees and airline fares for the chance to work in the United States. They were promised wages of $6 per hour and a 40-hour work week, plus housing and possible overtime included.
* One worker, employed by Decatur hotels, was paid a mere $18.08 for two weeks, during which time he was available and waiting for work.

* In May 2007 the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled against the Decatur chain, and in favor of 82 H-2B workers. The employers must reimburse workers for the fees they pay for travel and associated costs. The judge has yet to decide how much the company will have to pay in damages.

Small Business Contracts

* Federal procurement law requires that at least 23 percent of contracts granted by the U.S. government must benefit small businesses, whose definition varies by industry.

* The U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee reports that only 7.4 percent of Katrina contracts granted by FEMA from May to August 2007 have gone to small businesses, down from 12.5 percent in April.