Hurricane Laura’s Winds Are Now Long Gone, But Residents Fear The Toxic Sludge Left Behind

Hurricane Laura’s Winds Are Now Long Gone, But Residents Fear The Toxic Sludge Left Behind

SOURCE: BuzzFeed News DATE: September 5, 2020 SNIP: Leaks and spills have become part and parcel of hurricanes that hit Texas and Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. A Reuters analysis found that in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s punishing rain in the Houston area, at least 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels, and chemicals were spilled across the state. That was in addition to millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances. While Harvey had a widespread effect on Texas, the environmental damage paled in comparison to Hurricane Katrina. Researchers estimate that there were as many as 200 releases of hazardous chemicals, petroleum, or natural gas in the wake of that storm coming ashore south of New Orleans. John Pardue, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, wrote in a piece for the Conversation about how the fire at BioLab [a chlorine plant which processes chlorine for swimming pools] may be just the tip of Hurricane Laura’s damage to the oil and petrochemical facilities. In that piece, Pardue points out that the storm’s strongest winds whipped through the Hackberry oil field, a marsh dotted with thousands of oil wells, storage tanks, and pipelines. Storage tanks have been known to be ripped from their moorings during hurricanes, releasing whatever toxins they had inside into the environment. The Gulf Coast is home to a dense network of oil and gas refineries and pipelines and increasingly the booming petrochemical industry. And the industrialization is growing. Using state permitting data, the Environmental Integrity Project showed that between 2012 and 2018, regulators in Louisiana and...
Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical Hangs Over the Houston Channel

Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical Hangs Over the Houston Channel

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: March 22, 2019 SNIP: Oil byproducts from a damaged storage facility contaminated the Houston Ship Channel and created a cloud of cancer-causing benzene over the waterway, the latest mutation of one of the worst Gulf Coast chemical disasters in more than a decade. The U.S. Coast Guard is forbidding vessel traffic on a stretch of the key industrial shipping route after a wall collapse and fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s already-damaged chemical storage complex on Friday. A mix of toxic gasoline ingredients, firefighting foam and dirty water flowed from the site into the channel, and a benzene plume above the water poses a threat to ship crews, said Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt. The channel … is the newest victim of a calamity that began unfolding almost a week ago when tanks holding byproducts of the oil-refining process at ITC’s facility erupted in flames. A mile-high plume of inky black smoke towered over the fourth-largest American city for days until crews extinguished the blaze on March 20. That was followed by benzene alerts that shut down Deer Park and other suburbs for half a day, the collapse of a containment wall and Friday’s new fires in three wrecked storage tanks and a drainage ditch. Nausea, headaches and other symptoms drove about 1,000 people to seek treatment at a pop-up clinic, with 15 of the most-severe cases loaded onto ambulances and hauled to hospital emergency rooms. “It’s been a never-ending, re-occurring case of things not working out as planned,” Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton said during a media briefing on Saturday. “There’s more tanks in there. Is...
More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

More Salt in Our Water Is Creating Scary New “Chemical Cocktails”

SOURCE: Truthout and The Royal Society Publishing DATE: February 6, 2019 SNIP: Gene Likens has been studying forest and aquatic ecosystems for more than half a century. In that time he’s seen a change in the chemistry of our surface waters — including an increase in the alkalinity and salinity of waterways — something he and his colleagues have dubbed “freshwater salinization syndrome.” Likens coauthored a report published last month that found that not only is salinity increasing in many surface waters, but when you add salt to the environment it can mobilize heavy metals, nutrient pollution and other contaminants that are combining to create new “chemical cocktails” in rivers, streams and...