Oil Hits New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain


Photo via MSNBC

Lake Pontchartrain lies just north of New Orleans. The famous lake and Louisiana icon suffered from pollution until restoration efforts brought it back to health in the 1990s. It once again became an important fishery and popular recreational destination. Then it got hit by Hurricane Katrina. Now, of course, it stands to be threatened all over again. Oil has just made landfall there, with some 1,000 tar balls washing ashore, and 1,700 pounds of crude having been cleaned up so far. This event also bears significance due to Lake Pontchartrain's proximity to New Orleans. The parallels between devastating disasters impacting a region within a matter of years will be impossible to ignore. In fact, when I was reporting from the Gulf -- back in May, long before the slick threatened to hit New Orleans -- I spoke to a chef at a prominent restaurant in the city. He told me that everyone was asking him whether it was safe to eat the seafood around there, and whether he could see the oil washing up in Lake Pontchartrain.

He laughed it off then, unaware, as we all were, what the true extent of the disaster was going to be. Unaware just how many barrels were gushing forth from the Deepwater Horizon site (thanks again for lowballing the estimates, BP!). Now, of course, it's clear that oil may very well hit New Orleans proper, as it's already come to pass that it's hit the lake.

Here's the AP with the story:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Oil from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is seeping into Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans, threatening another environmental disaster for the huge body of water that was rescued from pollution in the 1990s ... It is threatened again after a weekend when tar balls and an oil sheen pushed by strong winds from faraway Hurricane Alex slipped past lines of barges that were supposed to block the passes connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the lake.

The oil could be the second setback in five years. Hurricane Katrina knocked out seafood docks and lakeside restaurants in 2005. The lake's water quality also took a hit when the Army Corps of Engineers drained New Orleans' contaminated floodwaters into the lake.

One Gulf Coast resident quoted in the story remarks that until now, to many who live in the region, the spill seemed like a far-off, abstract threat. "This is bringing it closer to home," she said.

More on the BP Gulf Spill:
14 Year-old Girl Confronts BP for Lack of Oil Spill Education Efforts (Video)
Oil Cleanup Workers Getting Sick: BP Not Providing Safety Gear

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