Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans: As If The Water Wasn't Bad Enough...

The worlds biggest Supefund site?
The water that swept through New Orleans' streets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina carried more than continued misery for the storm's victims.

It also brought along a potentially toxic soup of pollution - sewage, chemicals and perhaps human bodies.


New Orleans lies between the Mississippi River, nearly a half-mile wide, and Lake Pontchartrain, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

The lake has long been a dumping ground for local sewer plants and dairy producers, making it off-limits to swimmers until a cleanup effort began at the end of the 1990s.

New Orleans' sewer system is old and in poor condition, Pine said. During Katrina's onslaught, trees that were ripped out of the ground pulled loose underground pipes, local officials told WWL-TV in New Orleans. The uprooting caused breaks in the sewer and natural gas lines, which then leaked.

The city's port is a major hub for the transportation of hazardous cargo, Pine said, so the waters could be contaminated by that, too.

Gasoline, diesel fuel and oil leaking from underground storage tanks at service stations may also become a problem, federal officials have said.

And then there are the storm's uncounted victims. As rescuers work to save survivors from their rooftops, "we're not even dealing with dead bodies," Mayor C. Ray Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."