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Are Galveston And New Orleans Toxic Waste Sites?

By Bruce of Stone Marmot

Oct. 31, 2008

Galveston and New Orleans are two of a number of cities that have been fairly recently devastated by flood waters from hurricanes. We heard so much in the news about the number of homes that were damaged and destroyed by these events. But what about the businesses? What about the gas stations, paint stores, pharmacies, pest control firms, etc. What about the industrial places, such as chemical processing plants, petroleum storage facilities, etc. They may actually have a much more severe impact due to their resulting waste.

Fortunately in the case of Galveston and most other cities devastated by hurricane flood waters (if any of this could be called fortunate), the flood waters weren't there for long, maybe 6 to 24 hours. Also, when the waters receded, they took a lot of the liquid waste with them. This does result in greater offshore pollution, though it is greatly diluted by the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic, depending what city was flooded. This is still a problem and needs to be considered, though.

This is not true for New Orleans. Parts of the city were flooded for as much as six weeks, with much of the flooded areas being flooded for three weeks. There was a “witches brew” of chemicals soaking most of the city. This included gasoline and oil from flooded automobiles, gas stations, auto parts stores, auto service centers, lawn maintenance equipment, etc. This included household and industrial cleaners, solvents, and paints. Batteries, battery acids and lead. During Katrina, 66 chemical plants and petroleum storage facilities were flooded. Three EPA listed Superfund toxic waste sites around New Orleans were also flooded.

In New Orleans from Katrina, this mixture of water and chemicals had weeks to soak into anything the least bit porous. This not only includes the obvious, such as mattresses, drapes, clothes, cushioned furniture, housing insulation, and carpets. But weeks is enough time for this stuff to soak into flooded wood, concrete, cement blocks, bricks, the ground itself.

If you don't believe me with regards to the last sentence, get a cement block or a piece of wood, weigh it, then submerge it into a container of water for three weeks, and then weigh it again. This stuff can absorb more moisture than you think, and many of these chemicals have better penetrating capability than water. And when it is removed from the water, it will take a long time for these chemicals to work their way back out of the object. Traces of chemicals in excess of most safety standards, in other words, enough to get schools evacuated, will be leaching out of this stuff for years, if not decades.

But little can be found with regards toxic and carcinogenic substance levels measured around New Orleans since Katrina. The goal by most all government officials, both local and federal, and many business people was to get the population of the area back to pre-Katrina levels as soon as possible. Even most so-called liberals and humanitarians ignored this issue. This may be admirable with regards to the area economy, but not from a human life standpoint.

Look at all the chemicals in your own home. Multiply that by at least 100,000 for the number of homes affected in New Orleans. Add to that all the gas stations, cars, Wal-Mart's, drug stores, industrial firms, funeral homes, hospitals, chemical plants, etc.

The real questions are: Do you want your kids to play and grow up in homes, schools, yards, and playgrounds that have been soaked with these kind of chemicals? Do you know what the level of chemical contamination is where you are? Why isn't anyone measuring this data? If they are, why aren't they making it public?</p>

An even bigger question is what happens to some of these chemicals when they are mixed together? They could form something far worse than any of the individual chemicals.

As mentioned earlier, this problem is probably not as severe in Galveston. But it is not nonexistent. The people in the Galveston area should also be asking these questions.

Note: A big reason why the local and federal governments don't want people thinking about this toxic chemical issue is that they were pumping these waters directly into the local waterways and eventually into the Gulf Of Mexico. They probably wanted to pump out New Orleans before the issue came up and halted their pumping until some kind of filtering or other safeguard was devised to keep these chemicals out of the environment. They still don't want to issue brought up because they still don't want to add these safeguards.

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