Report on chemical pollutants in wake of Hurricane Isaac

Published: Aug. 6, 2013 at 10:08 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2013 at 10:19 PM CDT
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New Orleans, La. - In a collaborative effort, five environmental groups released their findings of pollution estimates from oil, gas and coal facilities in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.

The report lays out how 341,000 gallons of oil, chemicals and untreated wastewater was released by facilities in the gulf region during and after the storm.

"The vulnerability of the facilities somewhat shocked us at times. They contain and process oil, coal, natural gas and a wide range of chemicals which could, if the right storm hits, lead to catastrophic effects," says Cynthia Sarthou of the Gulf Restoration Network.

The environmentalists say there's a real concern about how under-prepared these facilities are in the height of yet another hurricane season.

The Stolthaven Petroleum and Chemical facility in Braithwaite did not fare well during Isaac. 37 days after Isaac, Stolthaven submitted its final report to the DEQ, stating that more than 169,000 gallons of oil and petrochemicals had spilled.

"I think Stolthaven was a big problem. That was probably the worst because you had people going back home to a contaminated area," says Ann Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

"Yes, there were chemicals there but absolutely, if there was any health issues, we wouldn't have been able to go back to the area for six months," says Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Nungesser says Stolthaven is preparing to better protect the facility for future storms. "They're building a sheet pile wall and levee worth millions of dollars as a second defense against storms," says Nungesser.

The environmentalists, though, are calling on government regulatory agencies such as DEQ to monitor all facilities more closely to make sure they're prepared for this hurricane season.

The DEQ says it's reviewing the report. It also says each hurricane event is unique and, although there are no regulations that require plants to shut down at a pre-determined level, DEQ contacts the facilities in a storm's path prior to the event.