Hurricane Ike left a big mess behind as it passed over Galveston, Texas, and other Gulf Coast areas, but the mess wasn’t just from debris. Just as with Hurricane Katrina, the combination of destructive high winds and subsequent flooding have created a toxic soup that’s potentially dangerous to residents, cleanup crews, and the environment. Floodwaters have mixed with gasoline, paints, household chemicals, and construction debris (some containing asbestos) to make an unpleasant, icky, potentially hazardous mess that could also cause respiratory problems when it dries into dust. The U.S. EPA will test floodwaters and sludge for contaminants later this week; however, if the levels are anything like Katrina left behind, residents should be wary of returning so soon. “Quite frankly, we are reaching a health crisis for those that are remaining on the island,” said Galveston city manager Steve LeBlanc. “We’re asking and strongly encouraging those that are here to leave, and we’re certainly telling those that are away to stay away.” Plenty of standing water has also led to a boom in mosquitoes and the county has been asked to spray the area to kill the larvae.
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