Katrina leaves a toxic nightmare

This Dallas News article
is the best, most exhaustive article I’ve seen on the multiple, highly
serious environmental nightmares that NOLA, southern Louisiana, and the
Gulf now face.

Yet, the federal government, with the exception of EPA, are asleep at
the wheel, just like when Katrina hit. Let’s pump all the sludge into
the lake and figure out what to do with it later on, they say – this
being just one instance of their comatose, deluded reaction. Uh huh,
and how many will die in the next few years because of their inability
to act fast and at least try the remediate this toxic time bomb before
it gets into the food chain and humans?

Hurricane Katrina
is rapidly becoming the worst environmental calamity in U.S. history,
with oil spills rivaling the Exxon Valdez, hundreds of toxic sites
still uncontrolled, and waterborne poisons soaking 160,000 homes.

Oil and gas spills

Across southern
Louisiana, the Coast Guard reported seven major oil spills from
refineries or tank farms that totaled 6.7 million gallons, or 61
percent as much as the 11 million gallons that leaked into Alaska’s
Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

The total does not count the gasoline from gas stations and the more
than 300,000 flooded cars, which was likely to add another 1 million to
2 million gallons. Nor does it count the oil from hundreds of smaller
or undiscovered spills. Altogether, 396 calls had come in to the Coast
Guard’s national oil-spill hotline by Wednesday afternoon.

The magnitude of the oil spills came into focus with word that
laboratories trying to test sediment from newly drained areas were
having a problem: There was so much petroleum in the dirt that they
couldn’t test for anything else.

The Exxon Valdez became the benchmark for U.S. oil spills by leaking
North Slope crude into Alaska’s cold isolation. This time, the danger
includes untreated sewage, cancer-causing compounds, nameless black
gunk from rail yards, chemicals used to kill plants or insects,
substances that are poisonous even in the tiniest amounts, and
decomposing remains.

This will be far worse than the Valdez spill as it happened in a highly
populated area, and the resultant toxic stew is way more toxic than
just crude oil.

Superfund sites

EPA also has visited four Superfund toxic waste sites near New Orleans,
looking for obvious damage, but hadn’t tested yet to see what happened

Another Superfund site, the
Agriculture Street landfill in eastern New Orleans, hadn’t been
inspected. The site, where low-income housing and a school were built
on or near the waste years ago, is still under water.

How charming, putting low-income housing atop a not completely cleaned up toxic site. AKA environmental racism.

The air

air, too, is a source of danger in New Orleans. An EPA airplane
equipped with electronic sensors to spot air pollution detected a plume
of chloroacetic acid, an industrial agent and defoliant that poses
extreme toxic risks when inhaled.


site sampled Sept. 3, an Interstate 10 interchange north of the French
Quarter, had lead 56 times higher than the amount that would be allowed
in drinking water.

Officials haven’t pinpointed a
source, but a likely suspect is the lead paint that for decades covered
the city’s huge stock of old houses. If that proves true, it could
reveal problems in New Orleans’ performance in lead paint removal, a
major public health priority.


dioxin levels have been found in the southwest Louisiana town of Lake
Charles, and Dr. Schecter said he’d be surprised if biological
monitoring did not reveal a similar problem in New Orleans.


concern, he said, is that long-lasting pollutants will remain in higher
concentrations and higher toxicity when the water dries up. “The
question will be how much will get into people by the three routes:
respiratory, gastrointestinal, and dermal or skin.”

From other news sources

Rail cars pose hazards

At least 1,000 rail
cars are missing and “in this heavily industrial part of the state,
chemicals such as chlorine, sulfuric acid and others that pose hazards
to human health are routinely transported by rail.”


Sen. James
Jeffords, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and
Public Works, said the briefing he got Wednesday from the EPA was a “a
grave and sobering assessment.”

“We heard that the degree of environmental damage is considered catastrophic,” Jeffords said.