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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Toxic City 

Courtesy of our stouthearted colleagues at Cursor: The storm will soon be over, but the disaster is just beginning:
"The area's become a hazardous waste site," said Dexter Accardo of the St. Tammany Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness . . . .

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."

Local officials said they fear diseases such diarrhea, cholera and malaria could spread, just as they did after a tsunami devastated Southeast Asia eight months ago . . . .

If the floodwaters are indeed toxic, then the question becomes: How to get rid of it?

Getting rid of floodwaters so residents can return to their homes is likely to require pumping the dirty water into either the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain, LSU experts said four years ago.

The lake route would kill several thousand acres of nearby swamps and marshes which have already been rapidly diminishing because of alterations to the Mississippi River. But pumping it into the river means flushing it into the delta and the Gulf of Mexico, already suffering from a "dead zone" due to other upriver contaminants.
New Orleans is of course the epicenter, but the shock waves are spreading in many directions at once. Master seismologist the Fixer (of Alternate Brain) is tracking a couple of subterranean tremors that are just about to reach the surface:
Background: Mrs. F is an executive at a large insurance company and the only thing on anybody's lips is 'Katrina'. The last time I saw them get worried like this was right after 9/11 as they began to consider the payouts and liability. (My wife's company insured many of the companies occupying WTC.)

This isn't just a humanitarian disaster, it is an economic one. Fuck the price of oil going up, watch for a bunch of insurance companies to go under thanks to this hurricane.

Update: As of 6:15 this morning, regular gas hits $3.41 on Eastern Long Island. And so it begins . . .

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