Captain's Quarters Blog

« Another Day, Another Flub From White House | Main | The Poor Bureaucrats Of Washington DC »

October 13, 2005
Another Katrina Media Myth Down The Drain

Remember the "toxic soup" that flooded New Orleans, the one that the media widely reported was so polluted that mere momentary exposure could burn the skin and create potentially mortal illness for Katrina victims? As with the widespread gunfire, rapes, and murders, the toxic soup turns out to be another media myth. The Washington Post reports that an extensive look at the floodwaters reveals that its composition appears equivalent to floodwaters anywhere else:

The floodwater that covered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was not unusually toxic and was "typical of storm water runoff in the region," according to a study published yesterday.

Most of the gasoline-derived substances in the water evaporated quickly, and the bacteria from sewage also declined over time, the scientist leading the study said. The water's chief hazard was from metals that are potentially toxic to fish. However, no fish kills have been reported in Lake Pontchartrain, where the water that once covered 80 percent of the city was pumped.

"What it most looks like is the storm water that is present in New Orleans every time it rains," said John H. Pardue, an environmental engineer at Louisiana State University, who headed the team whose research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. "We still don't think the floodwaters were safe, but it could have been a lot worse. It was not the chemical catastrophe some had expected."

Of course, this is good news for the people of New Orleans who had to suffer from exposure to the water, but other than that, it makes little difference. The damage caused to structures comes from the water itself, as well as the mud and silt that come along with it. The rot that sets into structures throughout the basin will likely require total or near-total reconstruction efforts.

It does, however, demonstrate the toxic combination of hyperbolic media and sensational events. Not content with reporting the news that happened before their eyes, media outlets had to reach beyond the news to report events that never happened, all without doing even basic research to determine the veracity of their reports. How difficult would it have been for NBC or the New York Times to get a test of the water before unleashing reports on the so-called toxic soup? How about getting reporters to verify accounts of rapes and murders by the score before airing such rumors to a repulsed nation?

How many people did these reports turn away who might otherwise have offered assistance?

Laughably, the media gave itself a big pat on the back within days of the Katrina disaster, declaring themselves vindicated after a year of CBS memo debacles and Eason Jordan embarrassments. Only much later can we see that they learned nothing over that past year and have moved themselves even closer to the National Enquirer in terms of credibility. Instead of congratulating themselves, the media needs to eliminate the hysterics that drive the news coverage during unfolding catastrophes to make sure that they don't contribute even more damage to the victims and the nation.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2005 6:05 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Another Katrina Media Myth Down The Drain:

» Katrina Myths Going Down Fast from Below The Beltway
First it was the report about rapes and murders in the Superdome that proved to be false, now it seems that that waters that flooded New Orleans after Katrina hit weren't any more toxic than any other flood [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2005 7:26 AM

» Toxic Hysteria Revisited from The Bernoulli Effect
Much to the chagrin of Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst at the EPA, New Orleans (still) is not a candidate for superfund status. Kaufman is the hysteric who, in the aftermath of Katrina, declared "There is not enough money in... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2005 10:12 AM

» Study: NO floodwaters "typical of storm water run from Shock and Blog
"Fake, but accurate." The falsehoods increase the drama and make for a better story. Why should they worry about the truth? [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2005 11:25 AM

» Nagin SOUP. from The Bad Hedgehog
Another New Orleans Urban Legend bites the dust. From Captain's Quarters. What a BUMMER. No sharks, gators, cannibals, rapes, murders, exploding levees, white conspiracies to drown the black population or tens of thousands killed- and now this: The Nag... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2005 6:59 PM

» Maybe I Do Want To Live Like A Refugee! from Oblogatory Anecdotes
Still not good enough for the good people of New Orleans. We need to spend 11 million dollars a night putting them up in the finest hotels available. We're not talking Motel 6 here, that would be an insult. We need to put them in Hilton and Marriot H... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2005 11:56 PM

» Spike Lee’s Katrina: The Original Kings of Conspiracy from Independent Sources
In what promises to be devoid of facts and heavy on racial overtones, director Spike Lee announced he is making a film for HBO about the post-Hurricane Katrina flooding in New Orleans. According to Lee: “[I] wouldn’t be shocked if consp... [Read More]

Tracked on October 15, 2005 1:52 AM

» It was all a dream New Orleanians....never happene from The Pink Flamingo Bar Grill
Never happened, Katrina was only a bad dream, perpetuated by a news media intent on finally bringing George Bush to ground. There [Read More]

Tracked on October 16, 2005 8:59 AM

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!