Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Orleans must stop pumping now!

I believe that I have just found the issue on which I have something to contribute to the discussion. Both because this aspect of the Katrina catastrophe has so far been under-reported and because I have read widely across the various science disciplines involved in comprehending the scope of this potential reverberation of Katrina's havoc. The word must go out now before it is too late. They simply must not pump that water back into the lake and river untreated. My heart breaks for the further delay that will mean for the rebuilding and the return of its residents. I am not advocating a permanent abandonment of New Orleans but I am pleading that the time be taken to do it right or else we will still be tallying the death toll of Katrina into the next century.

I saw this picture or one like it early last week and immediately understood the implications--that the water flooding New Orleans is laden with toxic chemicals from the dozen or so refineries and chemical plants surrounding the city. Add to that the decomposing food from homes, restaurants, stores and warehouses, the decomposing bodies of humans and animals and the human waste (Do I need to say it?? It rhymes with 'hit and miss? Get it?) and the chemical reactions associated with decomposition of organic components and you have a recipe for huge-scale ecological disaster. Scientists are warning that if they follow through with the plan to pump the water out of the city and back into Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi, there will be a massive contamination of the lake, river, delta and Gulf ecosystem that could have untold repercussions on the entire food chain of the Gulf region.

They also warn of dislocation of dangerous animals such as water moccasins and alligators from their normal habitat into areas where they can wreak havoc on humans and domestic animals. To be more blunt, pumping that water back into the lake and river will kill the lake and river, much of the delta and huge swathes of the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the river.

Destroying the delta will remove one of the major defenses against future hurricanes as its presence acts as a buffer which sucks some of the energy out of the storm before it reaches the towns and cities. With the delta buffer eroded or gone, the storm can even continue to gain energy from the overheated shallow waters--heated now both by sun and decomposing organic matter. With the grasses and other rooted plants dead, the ocean will reclaim the soil of the delta at an ever increasing rate.

Poisoned fish eaten by birds will kill the birds or cause birth defects or fragile shells on their eggs. The toxins will permeate the soil and the groundwater and get into the crops and the grass growing where children play and into the milk they drink and the food their nursing mothers eat. And where over the globe do elements of the Gulf food chain normally get shipped? How much mayhem will these toxins do before cause and effect is even acknowledged let alone laws and regulations invoked to prevent further contamination, if by then it is even possible short of abandonment of the entire infected ecosystem for human habitation and food cultivation?

How many years? How many decades? How many generations? How many dead babies, miscarriages, birth-defects, cancer-clusters, clusters of immune deficiencies and normally rare degenerative diseases; organ failures, rashes, chronic respiratory or digestive tract distress, intransigent infertility of human and animal, neurological disorders, learning disorders--all of which and more have been associated with exposure to petro-based products, their by-products and the plethora of chemicals commonly used throughout the processing, storing and shipping of petroleum products, which would have been stored in abundance in a region whose most prominent industry was the shipping, storage and processing of oil.

Will we ever even know which chemicals and in what quantities they were released into the environment? Or will the corporations involved claim proprietary rights to secrecy? We simply must have transparency of this entire issue for without the facts, the ingenuity of science and technology can not be applied to rectify it. Science and technology without facts will go the way of the delta without rooted plants.

Pass this into the meme stream pronto! No matter where you live on the globe, this needs to matter to you. For especially if corporations use the new 'free trade' laws to force other countries to accept shipment of contaminated food product, this would have a direct effect on you and yours for decades.

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