The NY Times discusses something that has received little attention in the media, but had been discussed here in several threads. In the rush to pump the water out of New Orleans, we are forgetting what is in that water:
While the human and economic toll of Hurricane Katrina continued to mount, New Orleans was beginning to pump back into Lake Pontchartrain the floodwaters that had inundated the city.
But this is not the same water that flooded the city. What started flowing back into the lake on Monday and continued spilling into it Tuesday is laced with raw sewage, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides and toxic chemicals, Louisiana officials said on Tuesday.
Whether or not the accelerating pumping of this brew from city streets into coastal waters poses a threat to the ecosystems and fisheries in the brackish bay remains to be seen, the officials said.
They added that they could do little more than keep testing and count on the restorative capacity of nature to break down or bury contaminants.
Though the state of the lake was a prime issue, it was just one of a host of problems identified in the storm-ravaged region on Tuesday by Louisiana and federal environmental officials.
For example, the officials said that although two large oil spills, from damaged storage tanks, were under control, thousands of other smaller spills continued to coat floodwaters in New Orleans with a rainbow sheen.
The first samples of the city’s floodwaters were taken on Saturday by the Environmental Protection Agency, and results were expected later in the week, officials said.
“It’s simply unfeasible” to try and hold the pumped water somewhere to filter out pollution, said Michael D. McDaniel, the Louisiana secretary of environmental quality.
“We have to get the water out of the city or the nightmare only gets worse,” said Dr. McDaniel, who is a biologist. “We can’t even get in to save people’s lives. How can you put any filtration in place?”
Just another angle to this never-ending mess.
*** Update ***
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