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Louisiana waters now a witch's brew

As if the suffering were not enough, officials are just now beginning to understand the toxic threat left behind by the hurricane.  Put is this way: Everything that was in the sewage systems is now in the water—the human waste, and all the viral and bacteriological diseases that come with it.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

As if the suffering were not enough, officials are just now beginning to understand the toxic threat left behind by the hurricane.  Put is this way: Everything that was in the sewage systems is now in the water—the human waste, and all the viral and bacteriological diseases that come with it.

“We have to get the water out of the city or things will get worse,” says Mike McDaniel, secretary of the Louisiana department of environmental quality.

McDaniel cautions that it is too soon to estimate the extent of the environmental damage.

All along Katrina’s wake the environmental problems are surfacing. In Pass Christian, Louisiana, a Coast Guard team in from Georgia spots overturned railroad cars and moved in to investigate. They found three cars off the track, resting in a creek, and draining fluid into the bayou. 

The coast guard will mark the sight with global positioning — and an expert toxic team will be called in.

Environmental Protection Agency solid waste analyst Hugh Kaufman says the clean-up will be expensive.  “You can only estimate right now... the clean-up is well over $100 billion,” says Kaufman, who has been critical of his agency in the past. He emphasizes that clean-ups of these epic proportions take a long time.

His comments, he says, are based as an expert and is not the opinion of the administration. “To remedy this problem so the area is safe and then redeveloped... is going to take a decade,” he says.

The work to contain the dangers is slow and requires specialists— like this federal veterinary medical assistance team called in to handle dead animals who drowned at one animal shelter. The bodies of the dead animals must be treated like the most dangerous of biological threats.

The environmental problems are everywhere: Every destroyed house is potentially leaking sewage or natural gas. Every chemical, paint, solvent, and pesticide is no longer in the household but scattered everywhere.

The result is up to 200 miles of poisons, spreading out into the rivers’s bayous and oceans.  If ever there was a toxic Pandora’s box, this is it— and the lid is wide open.