Ida’s Aftermath Raises Environmental Fears in ‘Cancer Alley’
(Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Ida carved a path across Louisiana that cuts through a region packed with hazardous-chemical plants, raising risks of an environmental disaster along an industrial strip infamously nicknamed “Cancer Alley.”
About two thirds of Louisiana’s industrial sites with toxic chemicals were in Ida’s path, with the storm predicted to charge through 590 sites that produce or store those hazardous materials, according to an analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory by the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
“These kinds of toxic industries in the path of these storms are what we call accidents waiting to happen,” John Rumpler, a senior director with the group Environment America, said in an interview.
Ida raised the risk of more troubles along the petrochemical corridor that runs along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that’s also dubbed “Cancer Alley” due to its numerous industrial facilities. Not only do threats come from the storm itself, but also from potential flooding and power outages that follow and risk undermining the integrity of these facilities.
“There are major petrochemical facilities, major oil facilities that are handling toxic substances,” Tony Dutzik, an associate director with the non--profit environmental research organization Frontier Group. “ Many of those industrial facilities are vulnerable.”
Hurricanes along the Gulf Coast have already caused numerous environmental disasters:
- In 2020, Hurricane Laura caused a fire at a BioLab plant around Lake Charles, Louisiana that made chemical products for pools and was owned by KIK Custom Products. The company said chlorine gas was released during the fire, which burned for three days and destroyed the facility. The cause and final impact of the fire is still under investigation.
- In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey brought floods to the Houston area, a nearby Arkema SA chemical plant lost power, causing its unrefrigerated chemicals to decompose and self ignite in a billowing fireball. Twenty-one people were hospitalized. Two wastewater tanks also overflowed out of the plant, releasing 23,000 pounds of chemicals into floodwaters.
- And 16 years ago Hurricane Katrina was believed to have caused 10.8 million gallons of oil to spill into the waters around New Orleans, equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Another 25,000 barrels of crude oil leaked out of the Murphy Oil Corp. refinery to the east of the city, impacting hundreds of homes.
Read more: Murphy Settles Hurricane Katrina Class-Action Lawsuit
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