FEMA to Melt $24 Million in Unused Ice
By Eileen Sullivan, CQ Staff
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is getting rid of nearly $24 million worth of unused ice it purchased after Hurricane Katrina. Factoring in storage and melting fees brings the cost to just under $40 million.
FEMA purchased about 224 million pounds of ice at 28 cents a pound to support Hurricane Katrina victims. The agency stored the remaining 84.9 million pounds with the intent of using it during the 2006 hurricane season. But last yearâ€™s hurricane season turned out to be mild and the ice was not needed, FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said.
It has cost the agency an additional $12.5 million to store the ice, which FEMA said may pose health hazards if frozen too long. FEMA attempted to donate the ice but those efforts fell through and the agency says it has instructed its vendor, Georgia-based AmeriCold Logistics â€" to get rid of the ice entirely. FEMA will be paying AmeriCold an additional $3.4 million in melting fees.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA was criticized for not getting ice to those in need. FEMA was later criticized for purchasing too much ice and subsequently wasting it. Walker said there is no published shelf life for ice. The Food and Drug Administration said the shelf life is indefinite when ice is prepared and stored appropriately. In April, The Washington Post reported FEMA wasted $70 million on prepared meals it purchased in anticipation of a severe 2006 hurricane season.
â€œIf we had not had this ice on hand and we had an active hurricane season last year, the criticism would be louder than perhaps now for not being prepared,â€ Walker said. â€œThere is a cost for preparedness. We accept that and weâ€™re working to have a smarter business model.â€ He added, â€œI think that individuals need to understand that government agencies cannot respond to disasters without an associated cost.â€
FEMA says it has not purchased or stored any new ice since 2005 and instead relies on local contracts or agreements made through the Army Corps of Engineers.
Source: CQ Homeland Security