A month after Katrina walloped the Gulf Coast region, businesses and residents of New Orleans are beginning to filter back into the city.
With water receding, life in the Big Easy is slowly returning to normal, except for one major detail - trash.
The city's flooded streets, ravaged homes and previously stranded evacuees have resulted in quite a mess. According to a Reuters report, the city is filled with more than 22 million tons of garbage, much of it toxic and requiring special handling.
So how much trash is 22 million tons? Jim Pogue, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the refuse would fill 3.5 million large dump trucks, which would stretch on for about 36,500 miles if placed end to end.
"They would reach all the way around the Earth at the equator, and you would still have enough trucks left over to stretch from New York to Denver," Pogue told Reuters.
The mess has even created a new business opportunity for entrepreneurs in the area. According to the San Francisco Gate, signs advertising hurricane cleanup help "for cheap" have been sprouting up throughout the city's most devastated areas.
But everyday housecleaners aren't the answer for most of the trash removal, Darin Mann, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Environmental Quality, told Reuters. Some of the trash contains raw sewage from compromised water treatment plants, Freon from old refrigerators, and oil and gasoline from vehicles, which all requires special handling.
"If it was just a bulldozing process, that's one thing, but it isn't," Mann said. "You've got to go house to house, car by car, property owner by property owner."