Environmental Toll From Ike Now Apparent
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Hurricane Ike’s winds and massive waves destroyed oil platforms, tossed storage tanks and punctured pipelines. The environmental damage only now is becoming apparent: At least a half-million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and the marshes, bayous and bays of Louisiana and Texas, according to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
In the days before and after the deadly storm, companies and residents reported at least 448 releases of oil, gasoline and dozens of other substances into the air and water and onto the ground in Louisiana and Texas. The hardest-hit places were industrial centers near Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, as well as oil production facilities off Louisiana’s coast, according to the AP’s analysis.
“We are dealing with a multitude of different types of pollution here … everything from diesel in the water to gasoline to things like household chemicals,” said Larry Chambers, a petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard Command Center in Pasadena, Texas.
The Coast Guard, with the Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies, has responded to more than 3,000 pollution reports associated with the storm and its surge along the upper Texas coast. Most callers complain about abandoned propane tanks, paint cans and other hazardous materials containers turning up in marshes, backyards and other places.
No major oil spills or hazardous materials releases have been identified, but nearly 1,500 sites still need to be cleaned up.
Ike’s fury might have helped prevent worse environmental damage. Its rough water, heavy rains and wind helped disperse pollution.
Air quality tests by Texas environmental regulators found no problems even in communities near industrial complexes, where power outages and high winds in some cases knocked out emergency devices that safely burn off chemicals. But the storm also zapped many of the state’s permanent air pollution monitors in the region.
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