Chemical spill In Lower 9th Ward alarms activists

Bill Capo talks to residents and activists concerned about a chemical leak in the Ninth Ward.

NEW ORLEANS -- A bright orange chemical leaks from nine barrels on a debris-filled empty Lizardi Street lot. Some of it ran into the street, towards a nearby drain.

"This is insane," said Common Ground Relief Executive Director Thom Pepper. "When we saw this, we just couldn't believe it."

"It's terrifying," said Lower Nine.org Executive Director Laura Paul. "I shudder to think what that is doing to the storm drain to the lake."

The labels say the drums are filled with 500 gallons of a spray foam insulation, but the holes at the ends of the barrels indicate someone may have used them for target practice, causing the chemical leak.

"I'm outraged, I mean I'm concerned, and I'm outraged," said City Councilman James Gray.

Pepper said he's worried about a new high school nearby.

"We have this new high school, which is just a half a block away, and which opens in a couple of months, and we're going to have school children that are walking to the school, that are riding bikes to the school," Pepper said.

Eyewitness News contacted the Mayor's office, and the state Department of Environmental Quality, asking them to get inspectors out to see what could be done, and quickly. Rain is expected to soak the city, and possibly make the chemical leak worse. 

"The big concern is to make sure we don't do any environmental harm," added Gray.

A fire department hazardous materials expert arrived quickly, and the State Department of Environmental Quality dispatched an inspector. Both are working to determine what the spilled chemical is and the proper cleanup method.

"The attitude of some people that they can just come down here into the Lower 9th Ward, and dump whatever, whenever is just horrific," Pepper said.

City officials agree that the practice needs to have consequences.

"I hope we find out who did it," Councilman Gray said. "I hope we can punish someone, frankly."

After the inspections, the City decided to have a contractor properly clean up the spilled chemical as quickly as possible.

 

 


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