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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 View blog reactions
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» 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
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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
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Tracked on October 13, 2005 6:59 PM
» Maybe I Do Want To Live Like A Refugee! from Oblogatory Anecdotes
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