On the Ground in New Orleans
An NRDC Fact-finding Mission, October 2005
There is extensive evidence of widespread fuel spills. We saw thousands of cars that had been flooded. Many were severely damaged, and their gasoline tanks were likely to have ruptured. Several gas stations were still under water, and there was severe damage to many gas pumps, as well as to the ground around some of the gas stations. It's likely there were many leaks from underground fuel storage tanks, as well as from valves and pipes at gas stations.
We visited the perimeter of two major oil refineries in Meraux and Chalmette, St. Bernard Parish. One of these refineries, the Murphy Oil Refinery, spilled 800,000 gallons of fuel after Hurricane Katrina, contaminating a nearby residential community. No full assessment of the size of the affected area, or the severity of the contamination, has yet been released by government agencies.
When we observed the sediment left behind by the receding flood waters, the severity of the combined fuel spills became evident. A brownish-black residue of oily material was visible on the walls of houses at the high-water mark, and a similar residue -- sometimes up to 4 inches deep -- was present on the ground and even inside houses in the areas that were flooded. In some places, the sediment was beginning to dry and become airborne as dust. In many areas there was a strong smell of fuel in the air.
Limited sampling results collected by the EPA showed high levels of gasoline constituents, diesel chemicals, and other fuel-related chemicals in the sediment carried by the floodwaters and left behind in many of the communities. -- PS
Photos all pages: Erik Olson and Gina Solomon
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