Reverend Says Katrina Flooded Escatwapa With Contaminants

Rev. Richard Young says the flood waters Hurricane Katrina brought to Escatawpa, left behind health hazards in his church and his community.

"All the interior of this church has Dioxin poison. It's physically on the floor, you can see it," Rev. Young says. "So many people have gotten sick, so many children are born with respiratory diseases."

Young points a finger of blame to the industries along the Escatawpa River. He says, for years these waters have been used as a dumpsite for toxins.

"Katrina came in, it scooped the poisons from the river. We just thought it was mud."

That's what Jerry Walley thought when he cleaned out his storm damaged home.

"I was inside scraping the sludge up and I just got sick and I ended up in Singing River Hospital," Walley says.

Walley says before the storm his health was fine, but over the past 21 months, his health has suffered.

"Weak, memory lost, and I did lose my sight."

Problems like that led Reverend Young to call a Louisiana chemist to test the soil near the Escatawpa River.

In a phone interview, Chemist Wilma Subra told WLOX News that her tests found high levels of arsenic and micro organisms.

EPA officials in Atlanta say they're not aware of any environmental testing done in the area since Katrina. Reverend Young says it's time the EPA and Jackson County find out what hazards are there.

"Cleanup this area. Dig this soil up. I want these houses that have been contaminated to be torn down and rebuilt so these people can live in a safe environment."

Wednesday night, the chemist Reverend Young called will present her findings at a public meeting. That meeting is at the Jackson County Fairgrounds beginning at 6:30pm.

The reverend also has a meeting set up on Thursday with Governor Barbour's staff to discuss the health problems in the Escatwapa Community.