Sewage Could Save New Orleans
Revitalized wetlands could protect against storms, bring tourism
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2010 11:47 AM CDT
Water flows through the treatment basins at the city water treatment facility in New Orleans in this 2007 file photo.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – For New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, renewal could come from an unlikely source: sewage. The 30,000-acre Bayou Bienvenue, a neighboring wetlands, once provided tourist dollars, great fishing, and flood protection to the city—before it was poisoned by saltwater seepage from nearby canals. A coalition that includes local authorities, the Sierra Club, and the Army Corps of Engineers now plans to pump treated sewage into the wetlands to bring it back to life, reports National Geographic.

If all goes well, semi-treated wastewater from local sewage plants will tilt the bayou's salinity back to freshwater and restock it with vital nutrients, while biosolids—post-sewage sludge—will provide material for cypress and tupelo trees to take root. “When you start protecting wetlands, you protect against storm surge,” says a local community organizer. The Corps of Engineers agrees—its research has found that all levees with a wetland buffer survived Hurricane Katrina.