Hurricane Ida is carving a path across Louisiana that cuts through a region packed with hazardous-chemical plants, raising risks of an environmental disaster along an industrial strip infamously nicknamed “Cancer Alley.”
About two thirds of Louisiana’s industrial sites with toxic chemicals are in Ida’s path, with the storm predicted to charge through 590 sites that produce or store those hazardous materials, according to an analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory by the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
Ida raises the risk of more troubles along the petrochemical corridor that runs along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that’s also dubbed “Cancer Alley” due to its numerous industrial facilities. Hurricanes along the Gulf Coast have already caused numerous environmental disasters:
- In 2020, Hurricane Laura caused a fire at a BioLab plant around Lake Charles, Louisiana that made chemical products for pools and was owned by KIK Custom Products. The company said chlorine gas was released during the fire, which burned for three days and destroyed the facility. The cause and final impact of the fire is still under investigation.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey brought floods to the Houston area, a nearby Arkema SA chemical plant lost power, causing its unrefrigerated chemicals to decompose and self ignite in a billowing fireball. Twenty-one people were hospitalized. Two wastewater tanks also overflowed out of the plant, releasing 23,000 pounds of chemicals into floodwaters.
And 16 years ago Hurricane Katrina was believed to have caused 10.8 million gallons of oil to spill into the waters around New Orleans, equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Another 25,000 barrels of crude oil leaked out of the Murphy Oil Corp. refinery to the east of the city, impacting hundreds of homes.
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