State Settles Lawsuit Over New Orleans Debris Landfill

Wed March 01, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Louisiana’s environmental agency has settled a lawsuit over a New Orleans landfill where debris has been dumped since Hurricane Katrina, but Mayor Ray Nagin recently ordered suspension of a zoning ordinance to allow a new landfill not far away, and close to a national wildlife area.

The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network settled the suit Wednesday that the environmental group brought in protest of the state’s decision to relax requirements after Katrina and allow the Old Gentilly Landfill to reopen for construction and demolition debris.

The department in the settlement agreed to limit, temporarily, daily dumping at the landfill to 19,000 cubic yards of waste and to study how dumping could affect the nearby Intracoastal Waterway levee. Regulators also promised to add water-monitoring wells and to allow the public to weigh in on the reopening.

Louisiana Environmental Action Network attorney Joel Waltzer said he hopes the change will lead to the landfill’s closure.

But Dana Stumpf, president of AMID/Metro Partnership LLC, which operates the Old Gentilly site, was unhappy with the settlement. By sharply reducing the amount of debris that can be dumped at Old Gentilly, the city’s cleanup will be slowed, she said, because other landfills are too far away.

"We’re the logical choice and the most efficient choice," Stumpf said, citing her company’s polls of haulers that showed they would take four to five loads per day to Old Gentilly versus 21/2 loads to other locations.

The new landfill, which like Old Gentilly would accept construction and demolition waste, would be operated by Waste Management of Louisiana, holder of the city’s contract for residential garbage pickup, according to Nagin’s executive order.

Nagin defended his authority to suspend zoning laws, citing an earlier declaration of a state of emergency that gave him wider authority than usual. The order says "the threatened closure of the only construction and demolition landfill site in the city necessitate(s) the immediate opening of an alternative temporary location."

DEQ officials said they were aware of plans to try to create a landfill at the site but that they had received no applications.

Waltzer denounced the idea of opening the second landfill, on a nearby property that abuts the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Reserve and was previously rejected as a landfill site. Waltzer said the site is near a section of town populated by Vietnamese-Americans who have been working to restore their flood-damaged properties.

"It’s a very poor idea," Waltzer said. "And again, you’re right next to a levee, and you’re next to a wildlife preserve. They’re inviting another lawsuit if they even think about it."

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