Monday, November 14, 2011

Cypress Swamp to be restored

Mark Schleifstein - Times Picayune
In 1956, before the completion of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Central Wetlands contained about 8,000 acres of swamp, 7,600 acres of freshwater marsh, 4,000 acres of brackish and salt marsh, and more than 1,000 acres of forest. The MR-GO cut through several natural ridges in St. Bernard Parish, funneling salt water into the area, where it killed cypress and freshwater marshes. By 1978, only 28 acres of forest remained.

This is the very same Central Wetlands which DEQ allows an oil refinery to discharge untreated wastes during "emergencies" and malfunctions. Even just the smallest portion of such contaminants has a long term effect on the estuaries and ecology of the wetlands.

The refinery compliance history demonstrates difficulty in handling as little as a four inch rain. The waste treatment plant becomes overloaded and the wastes are stored in the rain water ponds, which are also inundated in such rain events. The refinery releases into the local canals which discharge into the nearby Central Wetlands. Even absent of rain, a malfunction of the waste treatment plant will bypass treatment and send wastes into the canals (  as in the July 2005 malfunction which sent over 5 million gallons into the neighborhood canals).

And this is completely avoidable with added storage tanks along with pipes to the river or even with pipes to the treatment ponds at the river. The DEQ needs to evaluate the current situation and determine which alternatives would completely avoid chemical discharges into the canals and nearby wetlands.

All this commitment and effort to restore the Central Wetlands should not be fouled by one industry.

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