Katrina leaves chemical plants intact, says EPA; environmentalists not convinced

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The eight hazardous waste or chemicals plants in the way of hurricane Katrina did not release chemicals in their surroundings as feared, reports the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency collected soil and sediment samples from around the eight plant sites and compared the amount of chemicals they contained to samples taken before the storm. The samples were analysed for heavy metals, carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides and hazardous petroleum derivatives. The results were also compared to the norms for lifelong exposure deemed safe for people.

"Based on the sampling results, EPA does not believe these sites were impacted by hurricane Katrina," the report said. Nathan Pepper, a spokesman for DuPont, whose site was also investigated, said that state and federal government tests "all show the same thing -- the DuPont DeLisle plant's environmental systems successfully weathered hurricane Katrina."

But Becky Gillette, a spokeswoman for the local chapter of Sierra Club, an environmental organisation, is not fully convinced. "One of the worst sites in Mississippi is Rohm and Haas (a former chemical manufacturing plant) in Moss Point. It wasn't even tested. EPA saying that no harm was done when the storm surge washed over all these plants is just not credible," she said.

Reports claim that at the Pascagoula test site near Chevron's oil refinery, DuPont's First Chemical Corp and Mississippi Phosphates, arsenic and chromium were discovered above recommended cleanup levels. Reports also claim that at the Polychemie Inc's site in Pearlington, arsenic and benzopyrene were found above recommended cleanup levels.

Even Peter deFur, a technical adviser for government agencies and citizen groups, said EPA's conclusions do not jibe with data that he had seen from before and after the storm. "You can't take two, three or even five samples and say that the area is clean," he said.

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