4 Hurricane Katrina Environmental Impacts


One of the longest-running environmental impacts of Hurricane Katrina was the series of oil spills that occurred. One of the oil terminals that Chevron owned was severely damaged in the storm, which caused contamination throughout local marshes thanks to the added help Hurricane Rita offered. An estimated 7 million gallons of oil in total are believed to have contaminated the region because of the storms.

Here are the other Hurricane Katrina environmental impacts that occurred and may still be being experienced.

1. Industrial Waste and Raw Sewage Spillage.

Many homes and businesses were contaminated in New Orleans because of the storm surge caused by Hurricane Katrina. The industrial wastes and raw sewage made many buildings unfit for human habitation. Extensive cleanup efforts were often required to preserve historical buildings affected by this spillage. Evidence of this toxicity can still be seen with wilting plants and trees.

2. Decimation of Lake Pontchartrain.

Many of the contaminated flood waters from Hurricane Katrina found their way to Lake Pontchartrain, which sits in a natural depression that is below sea level. Although the overall impact was judged to be quite low, the toxins and stress that were brought upon it by the storm had a disruptive impact on local wildlife, with 93% of the lake having sediment contaminants.

3. Lost Land Areas, Islands, and the Ability to Grow Crops.

The flooding experienced in the region from Hurricane Katrina also made topography changes. This reduced the amount of arable land that could be used to grow crops. In some instances, entire islands disappeared because of changes to how water flowed. Rice acreage was immediately reduced by 10,000 acres, which caused a 20% decrease in the rice crop for the following years after the storm.

4. The Death of Cypress Swamps.

The swamps were a key component of the water management structure of the area. As the levees failed, they brought in extra salinity to the swamplands that the cypress trees could not withstand. This caused thousands of acres of swamps to just die, reducing future buffering against storms.

With the exception of the oil spills, the region affected by Hurricane Katrina has experienced an overall recovery that has helped to support the local population. As time goes by, it will continue to recover and restore itself to full productivity levels.