Introduction: The flooding in the greater New Orleans area that resulted from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September, 2005, left behind accumulations of sediments up to many centimeters thick on streets, lawns, parking lots, and other flat surfaces. These flood sediment deposits have been the focus of extensive study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) due to concerns that the sediments may contain elevated levels of heavy metals, organic contaminants, and microbes.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is characterizing a limited number of flood sediment samples that were collected on September 15-16 and October 6-7, 2005, from the greater New Orleans area by personnel from the USGS Louisiana Water Science Center in Baton Rouge. Small samples (< 3 pints each) of wet to dry flood sediment were collected from 11 localities around downtown New Orleans on September 15, 2005, and two large samples (40 pints each) of wet flood sediment were collected from the Chalmette area on September 16. Twelve additional samples (8-10 pints each) were collected from New Orleans, Slidell, Rigolets, and Violet on October 6 and 7.
The USGS characterization studies of these flood sediments are designed to produce data and interpretations regarding how the sediments and any contained contaminants may respond to environmental processes. This information will be of use to cleanup managers and DoI/USGS scientists assessing environmental impacts of the hurricanes and subsequent cleanup activities.