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193,000 barrels of oil spilled in Gulf wetlands due to Katrina

193,000 barrels of oil spilled in Gulf wetlands due to Katrina

193,000 barrels of oil spilled in Gulf wetlands due to Katrina
Rhett A. Butler,
September 23, 2005

Reports from the Coast Guard indicate that at least 193,000 barrels of oil and other petrochemicals have been spilled in wetlands and coastal areas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The storm ruptured pipelines, damaged oil storage facilities, and chemical production plants. More than 40 oil spills have been reported, four of which are over 100,000 gallons — at Murphy Oil Corporation – Meraux, La., near mile marker 87 Mississippi River; Bass Enterprises Production Company – Cox Bay, La., near mile marker 35 Mississippi River; Shell – Pilot Town, La., near mile marker 3 Mississippi River; Chevron – Empire, La., near mile marker 30 Mississippi River.

The magnitude of the spills approach that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill which unleashed 240,000 barrels of crude oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

The ecological damage to the region’s marshlands is believed to be significant but a full assessment is likely months away. Already the Louisiana Department and Wildlife and Fisheries’ have estimated a potential $1.1 billion loss in retail fisheries revenue over the next year.

Scientists interviewed by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL say that long-term damage from crude oil will likely be less than that of spilled petrochemicals.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL also notes that Louisiana’s wetlands and coastal habitats have long been suffering from flood-control efforts on the lower Mississippi River.

The loss of these coastal marshlands that buffer New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from flooding and storm surges may have worsened the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Though “few suggest that even pristine wetlands would have fully shielded the coast from Katrina’s destructive force,” researchers at Louisiana State University say that the hurricane’s impact “could have been meaningfully diminished, perhaps saving some of the state’s levees from the catastrophic breaks that occurred” (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL). Other studies have shown that for every square mile of wetlands lost, storm surges rise by one foot.

Katrina’s legacy will serve as a reminder of the importance of coastal wetlands.

This article used quotes and information from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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