Sewage As Hurricane Protection? New Orleans Could Use It To Regrow Wetlands

What Hurricane Katrina and many other hurricanes have told us is that wetlands are on the coastlines for a reason -- they act as a vital buffer protecting land from storms coming in from offshore. The fact that wetlands in the south have been developed or otherwise ruined has been a contributor to the amount of destruction a hurricane can cause. New Orleans recognizes that it needs to build up that buffer once again, and researchers think partially treated sewage will do the trick. National Geographic reports that the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO), the St. Bernard Paris, and the US Army Corps of Engineers among other non profits have come up with a plan to restore Bayou Bienvenue, a 30,000 acre swampy wetland that has been killed off as saltwater seeps in from surrounding canals.

Researchers estimate that storm surge is cut back by one foot per every square mile of wetland it is required to travel through when it hits land. That means every last mile of wetland is extremely important to those living on the coastlines. Building it up again could prove to be a challenge, but not if you have sewage on your side. SWBNO plans to use $10 million to direct semi-treated wastewater biosolids into Bienvenue to fertilize the area and build up the soil, stimulating growth in the cypress-tupelo ecosystem

Bayou Bienvenue "is a resource for the community for fishing, boating, hanging out, as well as for storm protection," says David Eber, the sustainability outreach coordinator at the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. "This used to be part of our community, and we want it back."

Usually sewage let loose near coastlines is bad news, as it is a sign of poorly managed waterways and the spread of pollution. But in this case, if done right, it could be a benefit. Consider the intense impacts the wetlands along the gulf are struggling through thanks to the Gulf oil disaster, including wetlands in New Orleans, any action that builds up their health and strength will likely be met with enthusiasm.

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