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Chinese Drywall and the Cost of Truth-Telling

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As if Formosan termites weren't bad enough (they devour everything, not just wood), now New Orleans, and Florida, are coming to grips with their latest visitor from Over There: defective drywall. Wednesday's Times-Picayune reports that Bobby Jindal is--shock, horror!--asking the Feds for help in running indoor air tests of homes filled with Chinese drywall. The stuff is believed to emit noxious fumes--FEMA would know all about that, having supplied thousands of trailers that emitted formaldehyde gas--but these fumes also corrode copper wires and household appliances. You and your fridge both get sick. A twofer.

Of course, in the rush to get homes rebuilt after the federal levees failed and flooded the city, homeowners and contractors may have failed to ask, "Is my drywall from China?" This would be their reward.

The reward for a scientist who blew the whistle on the Corps of Engineers and their culpability for the flooding has also just been announced: LSU, after years of threats, has finally fired Dr. Ivor van Heerden, formerly the Deputy Director of the University's Hurricane Center. Ivor, whom I know personally just a bit, has been tenacious and courageous in leading one of the three independent forensic investigations of the disaster (his group released the Team Louisiana report on the flooding), and he's consistently made the mistake--in LSU administration's view--of being forthcoming in sharing his team's findings, and the results of the storm surge modeling done by his team, with the public.

There have long been murmurings that the previous administration in Washington wanted van Heerden's voice silenced and had threatened LSU's federal grants as a persuader. No indication of any of that in today's story. Just the sense that, where the guts should be in LSU leadership, there lives instead a plentiful supply of Chinese drywall.

UPDATE: Here's a piece from Digital Journal with more information on van Heerden and the LSU-Bush administration pressure on him. You have to scroll down about a third of the way to get to the relevant grafs.