If there’s a silver lining for the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Isaac, it might just be this: the surge of water flushed out, and drowned, thousands of nutria — giant rodents originally from South America that are eating away at coastal marshlands, which act as barriers from storms. Most of the dead nutria have washed up on beaches in Mississippi’s Hancock and Harrison counties. “Estimates are there will be over 20,000 carcasses,” Robbie Wilbur, spokesman for the state’s department of environmental quality, told NBC News. In the short term, that many rotting carcasses are a health hazard. “It’s a terrible smell,” David Garcia, mayor of Waveland in Hancock County, told WLOX-TV. “As this heat continues, they’re just going to blow up and pop, making it even more of a health hazard.” Crews over the weekend started removing the nutria, aka swamp rats, though it’s not an easy task. “As they’re picking them up, they’re busting open,” Hancock County Supervisor David Yarborough told the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald. A federal contractor with experience in hazardous waste has been brought in, but even a handful of its workers had quit Sunday morning, the Sun Herald reported.
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