Love Canal-type toxic landfill submerged in New Orleans
September 6, 2005 12:38 AM   Subscribe

A toxic landfill site on which low-income housing was built in central New Orleans is now under floodwaters with the potential to pollute and contaminate portions of the Gulf Coast. In the 1940s and 1950s, the site was routinely sprayed with DDT, but in 1962 some 229,300 cubic metres of excess fill was removed because subsurface toxic fires kept erupting (and got the site known as "Dante's Inferno"). According to the editor of Hazardous Waste magazine, the site -- now under water -- will almost inevitably leach toxic effluent into the floodwaters, with the potential of inflicting unpredictable damage on the coast, and those that live there -- a possible environmental catastrophe. Tests by the EPA in the 1980s and 90s found 149 chemicals - 44 of which are known carcinogens. Among the toxic substances found were arsenic, lead, mercury, barium, and other organic compounds that are associated with pesticides and the burning of waste. Finally, what is the status of the Waterford 3 nuke plant just north of New Orleans, and what is the status of that plant's nuclear waste ? News reports say it sustained damage to 'off-site buildings' but what does that mean? Were those waste containment facilities?
posted by Babylonian (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Who's still thinking it'll only cost 10B?
posted by Balisong at 12:40 AM on September 6, 2005


Balisong - yeah but Bush *saved millions* by de-funding the levees! ...which he then gambled on the Iraq war, and lost :(
posted by Babylonian at 12:46 AM on September 6, 2005


Anyone know what happened to the tanker leaking 2,000,000 gallons of crude oil off the Gulf Coast, outside Louisiana, the middle of last week? News coverage of that seemed to cease after the DHS/FEMA closed off the airspace for reasons of "national security".
posted by Rothko at 1:05 AM on September 6, 2005


Nuclear waste is generally stored in containers capable of handling hurricanes and continuous submersion. Even if it was a waste storage facility, it should be ok as long as everything was up to code.

I'd be much more worried if the facility itself went underwater, since that waste there might not yet be packaged.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:12 AM on September 6, 2005


"While the entire city of New Orleans and surrounding areas have been plunged into a watery blackout, Entergy Corporation is faced with the task of keeping spent fuel at the Waterford nuclear plant cool to avoid a potentially deadly situation that could make Hurricane Katrina look like a gentle preamble to the worst environmental disaster in recorded history."
http://www.ruminationsonamerica.blogspot.com/
posted by Babylonian at 1:55 AM on September 6, 2005


Anyone know what happened to the tanker leaking 2,000,000 gallons of crude oil off the Gulf Coast

If you mean this I've not seen anything else about it. If you mean something about an actual supertanker, I've not heard about it at all.

Let's face it, even without the extra-special toxic landfill mentioned above, the nasty stew that is the result of plunging a modern city under water is being pumped right back Lake Pontchartrain unfiltered. New Orleans is both a human and environmental disaster.
posted by moonbiter at 2:36 AM on September 6, 2005


You're right, I meant to remember storage tanks, not a supertanker. Thanks for the correction.
posted by Rothko at 3:03 AM on September 6, 2005


yeah but Bush *saved millions* by de-funding the levees! ...which he then gambled on the Iraq war, and lost

If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:32 AM on September 6, 2005


He cut funding for the levees, that is truth. Any other statement along those lines is debatable.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:40 AM on September 6, 2005


Only in Washington is not getting everything you asked for a "cut."
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:46 AM on September 6, 2005


Agency: Our budget last year was $2.5 billion, we want $4 billion this year.
Congress: How about $3.5 billion?
Agency: How dare you cut my budget!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:48 AM on September 6, 2005


"Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward [flood control] dropped to a trickle. The [Army Corps of Engineers] never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain."
editor & publisher
posted by Babylonian at 3:57 AM on September 6, 2005


Don't get me wrong... I loves me some underground fires, but a little toxic waste would be a drop in the bucket to the ocean of industrial waste that's already there.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:13 AM on September 6, 2005


From the same article:
President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans City Business.
Not getting everything you asked for is not a "cut."

There is no direct correlation between Iraq and the Army Corps of Engineers funding. The argument could just as easily be made that the money should have come out of farm subsides, the pork laden highway bill, or an other widely supported projects.

Again the same article:
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained
So this has been a known issue for over 40 years, and the Federal Gov't has contributed nearly 60% of the $730 needed for the SELA. Why is the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans unable to fund the remaining 40% for a project so vital in their own backyard?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:17 AM on September 6, 2005


[...]arsenic, lead, mercury, barium, and other organic compounds[...]

Nitpick: Neither arsenic, lead, mercury nor barium are organic compounds.

*shakes tiny fists with rage*
posted by spazzm at 4:43 AM on September 6, 2005


"Only in Washington is not getting everything you asked for a "cut."

Which is why the word was used in the first place. Or was Bush on vacation in Crawford when he....eliminated from the proposed budget the requested funds...as it is called in Texas.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:07 AM on September 6, 2005


If you look at NO in google maps with the katrina overlays, you can clearly see a chemical plant in the south-west part of the city thats been decimated. I wonder what got in the water there.
posted by Mach5 at 5:12 AM on September 6, 2005


There is no direct correlation between Iraq and the Army Corps of Engineers funding.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood

If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood

Ah, Stevie... you crack me up.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 5:14 AM on September 6, 2005


Your unironic misquoting of my statements has shown that you have the superior argument! Congratulations my friend!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 5:36 AM on September 6, 2005


Photographs confirm Murphy Oil leak near New Orleans

You talking about this one? It's apparently leaking into a neighboring community.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:46 AM on September 6, 2005


The best part about this post? Hazardous Waste magazine.
posted by the theory of revolution at 5:51 AM on September 6, 2005


If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it...

...and then they'll elect you President.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:06 AM on September 6, 2005


C_D, that Centralia link would've been worth an FPP in its own right. I heard about the place over 20 years ago and had forgotten all about it.
posted by alumshubby at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2005


This sort of begs the question: WHY hasn't FEMA explicitly warned us about the possibility of toxic chemicals in the water? Shouldn't the rescue workers wear appropriate safety gear ? This reminds me of the WTC situation where workers and local residents were exposed to dozens of toxic chemcals and Asbestos, and the whole time, EPA lied and said everything was safe.
posted by Babylonian at 6:16 AM on September 6, 2005


I'm not arguing with you, Steve-o. I'm laughing at you.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:21 AM on September 6, 2005



Balisong - yeah but Bush *saved millions* by de-funding the levees! ...which he then gambled on the Iraq war, and lost :(


Lets be realistc here, that extra million dollars or so wouldn't have prvented this catastrophy this year. NO could have been huricaneproof in maybe 10-15 years if they'd really spent the money. Still, they definetly should have.
posted by delmoi at 6:36 AM on September 6, 2005


Agency: Our budget last year was $2.5 billion, we want $4 billion this year.
Congress: How about $3.5 billion?
Agency: How dare you cut my budget!


S@L, it was more like $250 million to zero, idiot.
posted by delmoi at 6:37 AM on September 6, 2005


S@L, delmoi: Surely we can resolve this like gentlemen. Aren't the funding numbers are a matter of public record?
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2005


it was more like $250 million to zero, idiot.

No... They did not get "zero." Do you understand that they got 20% less than they asked for? That means they got 80% of what they asked for. If they got zero, they would have gotten 100% less. Who are you to call someone an idiot?

Aren't the funding numbers are a matter of public record?
Yes, they are. Where they are, is another question.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:53 AM on September 6, 2005


Steve_at_Linnwood - I think you may have mis-read it. According to that E&P article, Bush proposed giving them less than 20% of what they needed... not 20% less - 80+% less
posted by Babylonian at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2005


The war in iraq hurricane in New Orleans will pay for itself with the oil revenues corporate "clean-up" handout "bids".
posted by odinsdream at 7:02 AM on September 6, 2005


The old Mexico saying: "Don't drink the water"
The new Gulf of Mexico saying: "Don't eat the seafood"

The Gulf has just became more of a giant swirling toliet bowl than it ever was before.
posted by buzzman at 7:03 AM on September 6, 2005


that Centralia link would've been worth an FPP in its own right

I thought about it, but noticed it's been done before.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2005


I'm amazed people still argue with S@L... given his obvious inability to read the passages he himself quotes.

Steve_at_Linnwood writes "President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans City Business."

So clearly, an 80% cut in what was requested by the only people qualified to know what the project needed. Not a)"a 20% cut", as he has erroneously stated, nor b)a request by some civilian agency, as he has implied. I'm actually pretty sure that the Army Corps of Engineers is not in fact located in Washington. Yet another fact lost in Linnwood, apparently.

You gotta admit that in all of this Shrub is living up to his reputation as "the CEO president" -- only he's more of a CEO in the Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers tradition, and not so much a Jack Welsh.
posted by clevershark at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2005


oboy SIX INCHES OF CLEAN SAND used to cover the toxic landfill

QUOTE

"... the landfill was often on fire and commonly referred to as ‘Dante’s Inferno.’ Shortly after the dump (which was 17 feet deep and covered 95 acres) was closed it was covered by a light layer of sand. In 1969, the city and federal government supported and financed the building of a low-income community on the landfill. Part of the landfill was developed into three subdivisions, Press Park and Gordon Plaza, a housing complex for the elderly, and a small business complex. Part of the landfill was left as undeveloped land.

Timeline of Events

1912-1948 This swampy area was used as a dump by the city of New Orleans.

1948-1958 The dump is converted and used as a sanitary landfill.

1958-1959 The landfill is closed.

1965- The landfill is reopened to receive debris created by Hurricane Betsy; open burning of waste continued for 6 to 7 months, after which the area was covered with ash from city incinerators and compacted with bulldozers.

1976-1986 The northern portion of the site was redeveloped to support housing (390 properties are on the site of the old landfill), small businesses, and the Morton Elementary School. The residential properties received a relatively thin (often 6 inches or less) covering of soil; the Moton school was built upon a few feet of clean soil."

END QUOTE
posted by hank at 8:25 AM on September 6, 2005


That means they got 80% of what they asked for.

Steve, slow down. You're firing without paying attention to what the hell it is you're putting in the gun.
posted by mediareport at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2005


The EPA has approved directly pumping the sludge from the city into Lake Ponchartrain, as it appears that there's no way to remediate the damage to the water. This will result in the death of anything in the south shore of Ponchartrain. The water is being tested and the results will apparently be released.

Those results can most likely be described as "heinous".
posted by fet at 11:06 AM on September 6, 2005


If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:32 AM PST on September 6 [!]
It got your man elected and Iraq levelled.
posted by substrate at 11:14 AM on September 6, 2005


Toxic trouble in NO water

"Go home and identify all the chemicals in your house. It's a very long list," said Ivor van Heerden, head of a Louisiana State University center that studies the public health impacts of hurricanes.

"And that's just in a home. Imagine what's in an industrial plant," he said. "Or a sewage plant."

Gasoline, diesel, anti-freeze, bleach, human waste, acids, alcohols and a host of other substances must be washed out of homes, factories, refineries, hospitals and other buildings.

In Metairie, east of New Orleans, the floodwater is tea-colored, murky and smells of burnt sulfur. A thin film of oil is visible in the water.

posted by Rothko at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2005


We're not happy about it. But for the sake of civilization and lives, probably the best thing to do is pump the water out," Mallett said.

I suppose I can't argue against that, but it does give one pause about whether drying NO quickly outweighs the damage this is going to do to lake Ponchartrain, and to the mississippi delta.

fet: Those results can most likely be described as "heinous". Jeebus.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2005


i was wondering about the nuke plant as well...??

anyone have any info?


i'll be holding off on gulf shrimp for a while - that's for sure.
posted by specialk420 at 4:25 PM on September 6, 2005


specialk420: i was wondering about the nuke plant as well...??

According to BoingBoing the plant suffered no damage during the hurricane, and they are looking for employees to restart the reactor. Honestly, the oil and chemicals already released into the water will have a worse impact than any radiation leak would have.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:23 PM on September 6, 2005


"In Louisiana, Entergy's Waterford 3 nuclear power unit remained out of service. The plant, which shut on Aug. 28 as the storm approached the coast, did not sustain any damage, except to some off-site buildings."
source: reuters

what off-site buildings? storage? waste?
posted by Babylonian at 5:31 PM on September 6, 2005


what off-site buildings? storage? waste?

Geez, try to be a little less inflamatory. "NRC staff have independently verified that key plant systems and structures, are undamaged and able to support current plant operations." Feel free to remain scared if you like, but you don't need to look far to find real things to worry about.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:56 PM on September 6, 2005


I'm sorry, that was unnescessarily curt. Of course its reasonable to worry about the state of the nuclear plant, but I think the NRC's press release I (brokenly) linked addresses that. If you're still concerned, there's a contact number at the top.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:39 PM on September 6, 2005


Only in Washington is not getting everything you asked for a "cut."

Isn't it, according to these numbers? Please correct me if that's way off, but wouldn't a "cut" mean a smaller budget the subsequent year, which is what that article shows?
posted by creeptick at 6:56 PM on September 6, 2005


Popular Ethics: call me paranoid, but if the EPA is not being honest about the Superfund site at the Agriculture Street Landfill, then why would I trust the NRC to be honest
posted by Babylonian at 6:09 AM on September 7, 2005


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