Katrina A Bigger Environmental Disaster than Exxon-Valdez
New Orleans' flooded neighborhoods are awash with dangerous levels of bacteria and lead, and with lower but still potentially harmful amounts of mercury, pesticides and other chemicals. Much will wind up in the soil as the water drains, or in Lake Pontchartrain, hammering its already battered ecosystem.
...Workers were cruising the flooded streets and the drained areas for hazardous material, retrieving more than 5,000 containers so far, including gas cylinders and a medical waste container that they found floating.
The 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.
...Several water samples had mercury, a powerful nerve poison, above the amount allowed in saltwater environments in order to protect the long-term health of people eating fish or shellfish.
The results also show gaps in the current knowledge. Tests so far did not look at TCCD, the most widely studied form of dioxin....
This alarming report does not mention the oil leaks. In addition to the leak of tens of thousands of barrels of oil from Murphy Oil Company, Oil and Gas Journal reports:
Shell Pipeline Co. LP, a unit of Shell Oil Co., Houston, confirmed crude leaks from an aboveground storage unit into a containment dike at a company tank farm in Pilottown, La., and from a 20 in. pipeline in Nairn, La.
...Nairn also is the site of three branches of Shell's Delta pipeline system, which transports crude from the Gulf of Mexico to refineries and Chevron Corp.'s Empire, La., terminal, a major storage facility for Heavy Louisiana Sweet crude. Chevron confirmed 23,000 bbl leaked from an oil tank at that terminal.
And yet, the US Senate today refused to investigate non-response and mismanagement of the disaster.