Toxic nasties abound in New Orleans muck; big cleanup being planned

Despite a well-publicized — hyped, even — recent study suggesting that Hurricane Katrina floodwaters weren’t so bad, turns out the muck coating much of New Orleans poses serious long-term health risks. The Dallas Morning News compared the government’s raw testing data from New Orleans, where the U.S. EPA looked for about 200 metals, industrial compounds, petroleum products, pesticides, and more, with screening levels the agency applies to residential soil testing. About 77 of the 200 substances were found in the post-Katrina glop, at least 15 at potentially dangerous concentrations. Potentially unsafe amounts of arsenic appear at nearly every site tested; petrochemical carcinogens at worrisome levels are widespread. The now-banned pesticide dieldrin was found at 58 of about 300 spots, nearly all at potentially dangerous levels. The Army Corps of Engineers is now planning one of the most massive environmental cleanups ever — and given its successes so far in this tale, what could go wrong?