Public housing residents near a 17-story hotel slated to be imploded Sunday in New Orleans are worried about dust blanketing their homes.
The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/Q5KqPQ ) that the state decided not to move the 400 households in the Iberville housing complex before the hotel is imploded. Now, some residents are upset about not being told what precautions to take when the building is brought down.
Fifty-four-year-old Lanetter Dorsey said she was in poor health and doesn't feel comfortable staying inside her Iberville apartment during the implosion.
"I keep saying, 'When are they going to come tell us something?'" said Dorsey.
"I guess they've decided we need to fend for ourselves."
The New Orleans Housing Authority said it would distribute fliers Wednesday telling residents what steps they should take.
Observers say that the state has planned the demolition carefully and that contractors have already stripped the building down to its skeleton. The hotel is more than 60 years old and could contain asbestos in walls and ceilings and lead-based paint, but the newspaper reports that those toxins shouldn't be a major part of Sunday's debris cloud.
But a recent study by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine studied particle clouds created by building implosions and recommended that people who lived near or downwind from an implosion stay indoors with doors and windows closed for at least an hour after the building has fallen.
More than 20 percent of Iberville adults and 40 percent of children have asthma, according to a HANO resident survey conducted last year. About 40 percent of the complex's residents are children 17 and younger, according to the same survey.
"Once it's done, no one can predict where the dust and debris will flow. So it's a little scary," said Iberville resident Morris Smith, 39.
The Iberville complex is not part of an evacuation zone the state has set up around the hotel. People living in that area are being housed in hotels on the state's dime if needed.
Instead, the housing complex is part of a larger area called the "dust cloud" zone, where only a few precautions are necessary, according to a spokesman for the implosion, Bill Rouselle. The state of Louisiana is overseeing the demolition that clears the way for construction of the planned University Medical Center.
Rouselle advised that Iberville residents stay inside, turn off air conditioners and close any openings into their homes for 15 minutes before and after the implosion.
Sandra Stokes, who sits on the board of directors for the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, said parts of the Iberville are only about one block from the implosion.
Rouselle said the State Police were using a 600-foot radius for the implosion area, the standard area required by the state's policy for implosions. According to Rouselle's measurements, the closest distance from the hotel to Iberville was 725 feet, and so Iberville was not included in the evacuation area.
Page 2 of 2 - Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the state office handling the demolition, said the evacuation boundaries were based on the expectation of how far dust will travel from the building's footprint. "The heaviest dust is expected to reach about 150 feet from the building, with lighter dust reaching as far as six blocks away," she said.
Others working in the vicinity of the implosion appeared better prepared and informed than the Iberville residents.
Staff working in nearby Tulane University buildings have been receiving email alerts for weeks about the implosion and on Sunday the Tulane facilities will turn off air intakes so that they won't suck in dust. The staff will remain on-site until the site is cleared, said Tulane Senior Vice President of Operations Tony Lorino.
"They tell us that it will only take a couple of hours for the dust to settle," he said.
At Iberville, teenager Clifford James isn't sure how he feels about the implosion. "I want to watch it," said James, 14. "But my mama has asthma."