In the hopes of liquidating a national shame as quickly as possible, the U.S. federal government is now auctioning off most of the 120,000 toxic, formaldehyde-contaminated trailers once used to house Hurricane Katrina victims. Though the resale of the trailers had begun in earnest last year, they are now being auctioned off in bulk for a fraction of the original cost - but equipped only with stickers that deem them "Not To Be Used For Housing'' - understandably raising concerns about the effectiveness of such a lackluster safety measure.Consumer advocates fear that they could be resold over the internet by dishonest sellers, posing a threat to future uninformed owners (though the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association's "humanitarian" suggestion to send them to Haiti would be dishonest enough).
There's already been a case in Fenton, Missouri where FEMA units initially sold as scrap were being passed off as housing, even though their paperwork specified that they were not to be used as such. In addition to the hazards of formaldehyde, FEMA is admitting that the trailers could be prone to mold, mildew, and propane gas leaks.
In a consumer alert, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel writes:
Proceed with caution, extreme caution, if you are tempted to respond to what appears to be an attractive offer for a travel trailer or manufactured home.
With the government looking to complete the sale of the units by April 3, observers are predicting that the market may soon be flooded with the surplus units which have been languishing at numerous locations in the southern U.S. since 2005, at the cost of $220 million over the last three years. Most of the units are travel trailers.
So what to do if you're confronted with a deal that's too good to be true? Make sure to ask the source of the unit and its condition before purchasing, and to get an independent inspection of the unit if possible.
More on FEMA Trailers
TreeHugger Deals (NOT!): FEMA Trailers For Sale : TreeHugger
FEMA Formaldehyde Fiasco Festers
US Trade Group Wants Stanky, Formaldehyde-Laced FEMA Trailers Sent To Haiti
FEMA Trailer Transformed Into "Garden On Wheels" & Donated To Mobile Art Center
Follow me on Twitter: @kimberleymok