Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One levee fixed - Texas full - Contamination

Brief news now, with more to follow: as George Bush pledges long-term aid in another visit to the stricken city, the 17th street canal levee has finally been sealed by the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, and they are starting to pump water out of the canal to reduce its high level before starting to empty the neighbouring areas.

Meanwhile, now that the city has been emptied of residents and work is starting to empty the coastal regions of other people now without homes there, evacuees are finding that Texas can absorb no more of them:

Texas has put up the “state full” sign after absorbing 240,000 evacuees in less than five days and Governor Rick Parry has made arrangements for new arrivals to be flown to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Iowa. One flight of evacuees from New Orleans was diverted to Phoenix, Arizona, after a brief stop in Dallas.

Power has been restored to parts of Jefferson Parish but Orleans, St Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes are still without electricity. Standing water in New Orleans — and in other Gulf Coast communities — has been tested and officials have found that in all areas it is depleted of oxygen. They warn that it will become technically septic in a few days’ time. John Pardue of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute also said that because of so many submerged vehicles, there is a sheen on the water in many areas and he is concerned about household chemicals. Because of the obvious public interest, his team is releasing the results of its tests quickly:

Pardue said he hopes releasing the data also will force the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality to release the results from similar sampling they now are doing.

“After 9/11, there was a lot of data collection and not a lot of reporting of the results by the EPA,” he said. “If we do it, that’s a separate, independent entity doing it, and will force them to release their information.”

Pardue said he expected significant environmental effects to result from the pumping of the contaminated stormwater into Lake Pontchartrain.

When it comes to rebuilding after the floodwaters are drained, Jesse Jackson has called for Louisiana evacuees who wish to return to be moved back to the state immediately and given temporary accommodation in military bases there. “The people who are displaced ought to have first dibs on the reconstruction jobs, but they can’t do that if they are in Utah or Minnesota.”

More later.

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