85M Pounds of Ice Going Down the Drain

Officials melting shipment not used after responders overestimated need.

ByABC News
July 15, 2007, 7:02 PM

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2007 — -- After Katrina hit, victims needed everything, including ice. The hurricane knocked out electricity, and ice was needed to preserve perishable food.

After a slow start, FEMA trucked in more than 200 million pounds -- way too much, as it turned out.

Stuck with the unused ice, FEMA put it back on trucks and sent it to storage centers all over the country -- even to far away Portland, Maine -- and paid storage costs, hoping to use it in a future disaster.

Now, two years later, FEMA has decided it may be contaminated, and will finally dump it.

"Their own regulations required that they dispose of the ice after three months," said Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a longtime critic of FEMA. "They could've tried to sell it on the open market. But to ship it around the country and spend money, the taxpayers' money, on two years of storage fees seems like the epitome of mismanagement and waste."

We're talking big ice here -- 85 million pounds. How many gin and tonics could you ice with that? And how many people could you cool off who are pretty steamed about the waste?

On Sunday in New Orleans, Lauren Michele Fields told ABC News, "The ice story, it's infuriating but completely believable and obvious that it happened."

"It's been $12.5 million to store this ice for two years," said Beth Normile, "and I think people will be outraged and frustrated."