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Teams search for containers displaced by Isaac

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - State and federal teams are combing the levees, ridges and marshes in southeast Louisiana as they search for containers left behind by Hurricane Isaac's storm surge.

The Advocate reports the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Quality began the effort in October, using aerial photos and on-the-ground investigations to identify areas that may contain containers.

Coast Guard Lt. Scott Houle said flights shortly after the storm struck Aug. 28 showed more than 160 such areas.

Initial response took care of most of the sites, but about 40 areas remained, he said.

"One target is 10 miles long, so that 40 is really misleading," said Jeff Dauzat, a DEQ scientist. "You can see some of these debris fields are huge."

Dauzat pointed to one photo in which a ridge of trees trapped a field of containers and vegetation. He said such debris fields can be many feet thick, and investigators don't know what's there until they start digging.

Most material identified so far is along levees and in nearby marshes in Plaquemines Parish.

The two-month operation to collect abandoned containers is a big job, but much smaller than after past hurricanes.

Mike Algero, DEQ's southeast regional manager, said that after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 there were 6,000 target areas in Plaquemines alone. "In sheer numbers, it's a lot less," Algero said.

When a container is found in Plaquemines, it is brought back to a staging area in Belle Chasse and the contents of the containers are tested, said Adam Adams, EPA's on-scene coordinator. The testing determines what kind of material is in each container and whether is flammable or corrosive.

The largest amount of material they've found so far is oily water.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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