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NEW ORLEANS – Oil from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is seeping into Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans, threatening another environmental disaster for the huge body of water that was rescued from pollution in the 1990s.
The lake rebounded then to once again become a bountiful fishing ground and a popular spot for boating and swimming.
It is threatened again after a weekend when tar balls and an oil sheen pushed by strong winds from faraway Hurricane Alex slipped past lines of barges that were supposed to block the passes connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the lake.
"Our universe is getting very small," said Pete Gerica, president of the Lake Pontchartrain Fishermen's Association.
The oil could be the second setback in five years. Hurricane Katrina knocked out seafood docks and lakeside restaurants in 2005. The lake's water quality also took a hit when the Army Corps of Engineers drained New Orleans' contaminated floodwaters into the lake.
"So far, this stuff has been offshore for the majority of the population in the southeastern portion of Louisiana," Anne Rheams, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said of the oil spill. "This is bringing it closer to home."