yep, that's what louisiana (and probably mississippi) is right now. i hope the mainstream media picks up this story from salon.com
An umbrella of environmental laws, including the Superfund law, gives the Environmental Protection Agency considerable authority -- and in some cases the responsibility -- to ensure messes get cleaned up right. And the mess in southern Louisiana, as EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson himself admits, is "the largest natural disaster we've faced."
But Louisiana environmentalists, who for decades have battled oil companies and government agencies to improve the human and natural health of their polluted state, say EPA's tests are insufficient and its health warnings inadequate. "They read like 'Hints From Heloise,'" says Rick Hind, legislative director of the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign. National critics stress that EPA failed to comprehend the pollution that arose after the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and may be repeating the same mistakes in the Gulf Coast.
"That entire area has to be cleaned up before people move back in," says Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. "You could have tens of thousands of people getting seriously ill."
The Exxon Valdez polluted Alaska's Prince William Sound with 11 million gallons of oil. But mopping up crude in the variegated Louisiana landscape will be far more difficult than it was in Alaska, where the oil was confined to one place. To date, according to the Coast Guard, 70,000 barrels of oil have dispersed into marshes and evaporated, while 55,000 barrels remain to be cleaned up. The fate of 2,000 underground tanks of petroleum products remains unknown.
Oil is not the only toxin that saturates Louisiana and threatens the health of residents returning to New Orleans and adjacent parishes. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality reports that muck covering the area is contaminated with human waste and bacteria, including E.coli, a fecal bacterium. It estimates that between 1,000 and 5,000 railroad cars have been damaged by Katrina, including some carrying chlorine or sulfuric acid. The EPA says water may be polluted by arsenic and lead from paint and the batteries of 350,000 submerged cars. Shattered homes and businesses are contaminated with asbestos and mold.
The oil spill is clearly the final indignity after a brutal storm. But environmentalists fear that the real story isn't getting out.
"So far, from what we've seen, we don't really have any reason to believe that what we're being told is really the whole story," says Hocevar. "If you don't look, there's nothing to see," he continues. "We have an administration that has been cutting back on the EPA investigative enforcement." According to a 2004 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, the number of civil lawsuits filed by the federal government under the Bush administration dropped 75 percent from the number in the last three years of the Clinton reign. Eric Schaeffer, the former head of the EPA enforcement office, who oversaw the project, told the Los Angeles Times, "If you're a big energy company, you're basically on holiday from enforcement."
the story just goes on and on. it's not good folks - another example of the the fox guarding the henhouse, and the media being asleep at the wheel.