I still think one of the biggest Katrina stories is the environmental one.
There is a lot of information on the net about the ecological situation, and most of it is pretty disturbing. According to the Wall Street Journal (via SEEN), for instance, at least 193,000 barrels of oil and other petrochemicals were blown or carried by tides across New Orleans’ Plaquemines and St. Bernard parish. According the the paper, that volume is equivalent to the amount dumped in the Exxon Valdez tanker spill, which left 240,000 barrels of oil in Prince William Sound.
If you recall, Admiral Allen and even GWB had been cautioning
Mayor Nagin about rushing people back in to New Orleans. Nagin reneged,
but he apparently only did under the threat of Hurricane Rita. At the
time, Nagin sounded pretty defiant. The mayor said:
"The admiral’s a good man. I respect him. But when he starts talking
to the citizens of New Orleans, that’s kind of out of his lane. There’s
only one mayor of New Orleans and I’m it."
Now that Rita has blown through and the government has backed off, it
looks like the mayor is going to have his way. In fact, it seems the
EPA is now refusing to take any official stance on the return.
Since the city started drying out, the media has been filled with
stories touting the speed of the recovery process. At the same time,
however, many of the images seems to be virtually shouting out the
dangers left behind. This is just one photo — which appeared on the
front page of the NYT about a week and a half ago — which seems to
presage future trouble. According to the caption, Darryn Melerine’s
wife asked him to return to their house in Meraux in St. Bernard Parish
and bring back their son’s teddy bear. When Darryn found it, however,
it was so caked with mold, he left without it. In this case, an
individual home owner shines a light to ascertain the extent of damage.
There are serious doubts, however, whether city, state or federal
authorities will ever officially do the same.
(A blog I discovered that is tracking Katrina’s environmental fallout is New Orleans Environment Watch.
According to the site, it is run by former Congressional and
Environmental Protection Agency staff, as well as other activist
(image: Doug Mills/The New York Times. September 18, 2005. St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans. The New York Times, p. A1.)