A swampy section of the city is becoming a dumping ground for paint cans, broken furniture, insulation and whatever else is in the rubble. From its beginnings, New Orleans has viewed the surrounding wetlands and Mississippi River as the logical places for its waste. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city again is turning to the swamp.
NEW ORLEANS A swampy section of the city is becoming a dumping ground for paint cans, broken furniture, insulation and whatever else is in the rubble.
From its beginnings, New Orleans has viewed the surrounding wetlands and Mississippi River as the logical places for its waste. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city again is turning to the swamp.
East of the city's residential neighborhoods lies a large tract of swamp land that has been turned into an industrial corridor. Even before Katrina it was besmirched with scrap metal and used parts yards, rust-colored streams and dead cypress trees.
Making matters worse, environmentalists warn, is that the mounds of debris from Katrina also are winding up here.
Already, illegal dumping goes on in plain sight. On one road, a pile of paint cans, telephone poles, biological hazard bags and insulation reaches several feet high. Some of it has been pushed into the swamp next to the road.
A month after Katrina, the state Department of Environmental Quality also allowed the reopening of an old city-owned garbage landfill that had been closed down by federal regulators more than a decade ago.
The Sierra Club and Louisiana Environmental Action Network charge that the Old Gentilly Landfill should only be a repository for construction waste.
Instead, it has become one of the main drop-off spots for debris and trucks carrying furniture, mattresses and building materials. Dust is kicked up all day on the roads leading to it.
Environmentalists are considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the rebirth of the landfill.
"I understand that we need to get rid of the waste from the city of New Orleans, but we have to make sure that we are following the environmental laws," said Darryl Malek-Wiley of the Sierra Club's Delta Chapter.
Darin Mann, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said inspections have shown that the debris going into the landfill is in compliance with the state's plan to deal with the wreckage from the hurricane.
The fears over turning the Old Gentilly Landfill into a Superfund site are not without precedent.
When Hurricane Betsy flooded the city in 1965, much of the debris from that hurricane was dumped in the Agriculture Street Landfill. Homes and a school were built atop the landfill before it was found to be contaminated and declared a Superfund site.
Source: Associated Press