Canadian Consulting Engineer

Oil and chemicals add to Katrina’s legacy

September 20, 2005
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

By all accounts, the environmental disaster in the Gulf States inundated by the flooding that followed the hurrican...

By all accounts, the environmental disaster in the Gulf States inundated by the flooding that followed the hurricane of August 29 is formidable and will be long lasting. Even though New Orleans is slowly being pumped out, the water that is being evacuated into Lake Pontchartrain is a toxic mess of human waste, chemicals, oil and gasoline that could take decades to clean up. So poisonous was the water, a reporter with the Toronto Star had her shoes disintegrate beneath her as she waded through.
According to the Global Environment Federation the devastation to wildlife and the natural environment is not even being assessed, let alone dealt with yet. The Gulf coastline was significantly altered and 26 massive oil-drilling platforms offshore were missing and 20 had sustained damage. More than 50,000 miles of oil and gas pipeline were reported damaged.
The region has around 140 large refineries and chemical plants, many along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, in an area already known as “Cancer Alley.” Also according to the Global Environment Federation report, at least 525 sewage plants in Louisiana were damaged, and 1,200 drinking water plants were put out of operation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The Water Environment Federation is calling for financial contributions to disaster relief agencies and is supporting Gulf Coast area water utilities and other professionals to register with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Emergency Resource Registry.
The Federation has also said it will be developing a new technical session on Hurricane Katrina for WEFTEC .05, the conference will be held October 29-November 2 in Washington. Sessions are scheduled on:
h Impacts on water and wastewater facilities
h status of recovery efforts
h estimated costs and timeline for repairing and rebuilding water and wastewater facilities
h emergency planning and lessons learned
h impacts on water quality and the Louisiana coastal wetlands
h impacts for public health
h short and long-term impacts of water contamination.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the hurricane, engineering companies and manufacturers are finding diverse ways to offer help.
Zenon Environmental of Oakville, Ontario and Maytag are donating residential central water filtration systems to affected areas of Mississippi and Louisiana. The company also sent its technicians down to help install the units, which are being used in relief centres such as public schools and churches.
Morrison Hershfield, consulting engineers of Toronto, have set up a program to match employee donations to the Red Cross relief effort.
Bentley Systems, maker of CAD software, is providing special assistance to architectural, engineering and construction forms that have been displaced by the hurricane or are helping in the region’s rebuilding efforts. The company is giving free 60-day renewable software licenses, including MicroStation.
Canadian Consulting Engineer’s website has a link to a special supplement on the Katrina Hurricane’s effect on diverse Canadian businesses and sectors. See


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