Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the state of Louisiana has finally started hauling way tens of thousands of lost or abandoned cars and boats.
The job is actually smaller now than it would have been six months ago, because thieves have been stealing car parts and even whole cars.
Towing these cars took longer than it should have. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for the cleanup. But a couple of months went by as the city failed to line up tow companies to do the work. The state then took over the project, and it took a couple of more months to accept bids and award a contract.
Right now, one company, DRC Inc., is managing all the work. The company has a list of authorized tow trucks that pick up vehicles the state police have tagged as abandoned.
The cars are taken to official holding yards while the state tries to contact the owner. After 30 days, the vehicles are crushed -- not sold.
But other, nonauthorized tow-trucks have been grabbing cars.
Even a totally destroyed car is worth about $1,000 for scrap metal. In the case of a nicer car that isn't completely flooded, the parts could be worth up to $1,000 as well.
State officials are concerned that unauthorized scrapping of abandoned vehicles could lead to an environmental mess. There are mercury switches, battery acid, antifreeze and other toxins in cars that are supposed to be disposed of properly.
But it's expected to take at least several months for the tens of thousands of abandoned cars to be towed away, so it's likely that illegal car scrapping will continue in Louisiana.