As we saw after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the assurances of the EPA that the air in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn was safe turned out to be false. It looks like the same was true of similar assurances given in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last September. Toxic materials dumped by the hurricane threaten both human health and the health of a national wildlife refuge.
The main reason for the toxic mess is a massive oil spill:
The NRDC report, which was obtained by The Washington Post, comes as a new internal report of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggests that as much as 350,000 gallons of hazardous materials are threatening the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Rita.
Government officials have minimized the public health threat in New Orleans, the environmental group said. Louisiana officials have said some toxic contaminants have been found only on golf courses that use pesticides containing arsenic, but the NRDC report includes maps detailing dozens of high arsenic levels taken across wide swaths of the urban area.
The two new reports intensify a simmering debate over Katrina and Rita's environmental legacy and what was left in the soil once the waters receded. With at least 8 million gallons, Katrina produced the second-largest oil spill in U.S. history, after the 11 million-gallon Exxon Valdez tanker spill off Alaska in 1989. Unlike raw crude oil in the Alaska spill, however, the storm released more refined fuel, which evaporated, dissolved or was diluted more readily.