More Katrina Effects

A quick browse through the headlines today indicate:

Zinc prices spiked last week on fears that stockpiles of Zinc in New Orleans might be damaged, destroyed or unavailable for a long time. But it seems that (a) much of the stocks are dry (either on high ground or stacked higher than the water reached), (b) water doesn’t much bother Zinc, since it’s primary application is rust-proofing (c) the Zinc in New Orleans hasn’t been all that active anyways for a while, so if it’s inaccessable for a while that’s OK and (d) even if it’s inaccessable, it’s not gone.

Interestingly enough (at least from this distance – I might feel differently if I were down there), Zinc is one of the heavy metals they expect to find in abundance in the polluted wastewater from New Orleans. Too bad they can’t effectively remove the metals from the polluted waters and reclaim them.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, preliminary sampling results show high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria (E. coli) which can be attributed to both point and nonpoint sources. Failing waste water treatment plants, debris, and animal waste or carcasses have contributed to the concentration of bacteria in the receding floodwaters. High organic loads are expected from marshes and forests transporting sediments, nutrients and organic material into the receiving waters. Pesticides from row crop agriculture and highly urbanized areas, as well as oil and grease from submerged parking lots, roads, highways, and driveways will be unusually high. Sediment from construction sites, nutrients from fertilized lawns, and heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, chromium, copper, and lead) are also expected to be sources of pollutants within urbanized areas.

MM, mmm, good.

For more about pollution effects of Katrine (not really related to metal stamping), see this article. Let me leave you with just a few thoughts:
(a) We all live downstream and
(b) The newest fear is radiologicals that might have escaped from hospitals and universities. Say what? People had permits to use radioisotopes in a below-sealevel floodplain area regularly visited by hurricanes and they weren’t required to store them in a way that would prevent spreading in a storm? Well, now, isn’t that good news.
(c) Like shrimp? Among the first living creatures to be impacted are shrimp Soon the only way to eat shrimp will be in the dark. Avoid the ones that glow.

Hydrogen was a hot topic last week. Air Products, a major hydrogen supplier for cold rolled steel making, warned that it may be unable to supply customers. This week they announced that, by a number of strategies, they’ve been able to make do. These include converting some customers to gaseous rather than liquid hydrogen and using up excess product in various places in the distribution chain. Some work is being done to partially restart their Sarnia, Ontario facility too. In addition, they have determined that their facility in New Orleans, while currently inaccessable because of water, is largely undamaged and *should* restart without too much hassle when the water is drained away.

Interestingly enough, hydrogen is also used to make computer chips.

The construction trades are worried about availability and cost of steel (especially rebar, I would imagine), cement and gypsum in the wake of the hurricane. For two reasons – it’ll be needed to rebuild New Orleans, and shipping of heavy products such as these goes best by boat. With the port of New Orleans out for a while, shipping by ship is going to be disrupted in a major way.

Truth about Trade and Technology says the US should drop their anti-dumping laws on four products, lumber, cement, shrimp and steel, all of which will be needed in the reconstruction (well, maybe not the shrimp). I’ve been saying this for a while, not just about those 4 products, and not just post-Katrina, but they make a point that now would be an even better time than previously.

The first steel company layoffs because of the hydrogen problems have occurred. And steel company shares are already dropping and earning forecasts revised downward, because of the expectation that recycled scrap steel and other raw materials will be at a premium with so much shipping knocked out.

All in all, an interesting start to the week.

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