EARTHWORKS

New Tests Show Returning Residents at Risk from Katrina's Toxic Sediments

October 14, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- Flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina deposited a layer of sediment in many areas of south east Louisiana. On September 16, 2005, Subra Company was assisted by Altamont Environmental with sediment and surface water sampling in five residential areas in New Orleans, Chalmette and Meraux that were impacted by flood waters from Hurricane Katrina. The sampling was conducted to assess potential organic and inorganic contamination of those residential areas.

Sediment samples collected from three neighborhoods contained arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene and petroleum hydrocarbons at levels exceeding US Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality standards.

Regulatory Criteria were exceeded at the following sample locations:

After evaluating the data Subra Company president Wilma Subra commented that, "the community members should not have been allowed to return to the areas where they could come in contact with the contaminated sediments. Community members have been allowed to return to the sampled residential areas to check on and clean up their homes. The community members were not provided with information about the contamination nor provided with protective equipment to minimize their exposure to the toxic chemicals in the sediment. The cumulative impacts of the large number of toxic chemicals in the sediment pose a risk to community members and response personnel working in the area with out protective equipment. There is a need for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish clean up levels and require that the cleanup levels be met before community members are allowed to return to the currently contaminated areas."

A more detailed evaluation of the data identifies the following:

The sediment sample collected from the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans (SS-1) contained 12 Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) which are suspected to cause cancer in humans. The PAH Benzo (a) pyrene (a probable human carcinogen) was detected at 195 ug/kg/ which is 3 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Residential Standard of 62 ug/kg. The residue sediment sample also contained Arsenic (a known human cancer causing agent) at a concentration that was 75 times higher than the EPA Residential Standard.

The sediment from SS-1 also contained elevated levels of a number of heavy metals (Barium, Cadmium, Chromium and Lead) and a host of volatile organic chemicals (Benzene, Chlorobenzene, Toluene and Carbon Disulfide) associated with petroleum products.

The sediment sample collected from near the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site in New Orleans East (SS-2) contained 10 Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) suspected to cause cancer in humans. The PAH Benzo (a) pyrene (a probable human carcinogen) was detected at a concentration 2.7 times higher than the EPA Residential Standard. The Arsenic concentration in the sediment was 13.3 times higher than the EPA Residential Standard.

The SS-2 sediment also contained the toxic heavy metals Barium, Chromium and Lead and the petroleum based volatile organic chemicals Benzene, Chlorobenzene, Toluene and Carbon Disulfide in elevated levels.

The flood water near the Agriculture Street Landfill contained Barium and the volatile organic chemicals Benzene, Ethyl Benzene, Toluene, Xylene and Carbon Disulfide.

The sediment in the Morrison Road area of New Orleans East contained Arsenic 28 times greater than the EPA Residential standard. The sediment also contained petroleum hydrocarbons in excess of the standard and the toxic heavy metals Barium, Cadmium, Chromium and Lead.

The Meraux residential area in St. Bernard Parish near the Murphy Refinery contained sediment contaminated with elevated levels of the volatile organic chemicals Benzene, Chlorobenzene, Toluene and Carbon Disulfide and the heavy metals Barium, Chromium and Lead. The residential area of Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish near the Exxon/Mobil Refinery contained sediment contaminated with elevated levels of the volatile organic chemicals Chlorobenzene, Toluene and Carbon Disulfide, and the toxic heavy metals Barium, Cadmium, Chromium and Lead.

The sampling project was performed by Subra Company and The Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Altamont Environmental and was sponsored by Mitchell Kapor Foundation.

The full report is available at www.LEANWEB.org/Katrina


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Tagged with: toxics, public health

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