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Related Categories: U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense
'Witch's brew' swills through New Orleans
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Thursday Sep 1st, 2005 8:50 PM
Chemicals poison water
John Vidal, environment editor
Friday September 2, 2005
The Guardian

A "witch's brew" of heavy metals, chemicals, sewage, fuel and pesticides is swilling through New Orleans and the waterways of Louisiana and other US coastal states, say conservationists and oceanographers studying the Mississippi basin in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The full extent of the industrial pollution will not be known until the 140 petrochemical works that operate along 80 miles of the Mississippi river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge assess their plants, said Greg Stone of Louisiana State University.

"We knew this would happen one day, but we just did not realise the magnitude of what could happen," he said.

The strip of oil refineries and chemical plants is known as "cancer alley" and has a long, dark record of air and water pollution.

"We saw with Huricane Ivan last year substantial damage to oil and gas installations and pipeplines," said Professor Stone. "There is no reason to expect anything less this time. The potential for really serious pollution is very high indeed."

"It's a very toxic environment that's being generated, a witch's brew," said David Helvarg, director of the Blue Frontier marine protection group in Louisiana. "We know there has been lots of damage to oil installations and that the sewage system is extensively damaged. Right now we are seeing broken down hydrocarbons and gasoline everywhere. You can see the rainbows in the water. On top of that you have the household chemicals and huge amounts of agricultural pesticides and fertilisers."

Yesterday, city officials and oil companies tried to allay pollution fears. "It's not the worst scenario we could have envisioned," said John Pardue, director of the Louisiana water resources research institute at Louisiana State University

Pollution would have been even worse, he said, if the hurricane drove the storm surge over levees to the south and east of the city and through chemical plants. This would have resulted in "cracking open storage tanks and stirring large amounts of highly toxic substances into the floodwaters. To our knowledge this has not happened."

Almost all 140 chemical plants between New Orleans and Baton Rouge are known to have sustained some damage.

Read More
http://www.guardian.co.uk/katrina/story/0,16441,1561344,00.html

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