We read about Venice sinking into the sea, but New Orleans is sinking right here at home. Most of North America is built on bedrock, but New Orleans is built on Mississippi River silt, which is settling, due to gravity. This settling has been going on for a long time, but lately the surface has been dropping fast. This is due to the levees, which were built to stop the Mississippi from flooding. However, the floods used to deposit new layers of soil on the land. Without this process, the city has become 6 to 20 inches lower in the past 20 years.

Houses are tipping and cracking. Streets are cracking too, leading to ruptured water mains and sewer lines. Some yards have become marshes. In Leeville, 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, the land has sunk 14 inches over the past 20 years. In the old cemetery, brick mausoleums that were once on land are now under water. The government is having a hard time deciding what to do about it. “Say your neighborhood’s 8 feet below sea level,” says geologist Shea Penland. “Are you going to [let] the government?cover your house in mud to raise the level?”

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