By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on February 24, 2015 at 9:12 PM, updated February 25, 2015 at 6:38 AM
The Gentilly Landfill, reopened by the City of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to accept construction and demolition debris, should not have its permit renewed, leaders of several environmental organizations and local residents told a state hearing officer Tuesday night (Feb. 24).
While New Orleans Sanitation Director Cynthia Sylvain-Lear sat in the office during the hearing, the department did not provide a 30-minute explanation of the need for the permit renewal at the beginning of the meeting, as allowed under the state Department of Environmental Quality’s permit hearing rules.
Indeed, there were no public comments in favor of the permit for the landfill at 10200 Almonaster Avenue, which is adjacent to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, during the hour-long hearing.
Darryl Malek-Wiley, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said his organization remains concerned about the potential for the additional waste being piled on the former city landfill site to shift towards the waterway and possibly break through the hurricane levee that lies between it and the waterway.
He pointed out that while the operators of the landfill have installed monitoring equipment to measure movement of the waste, the state has not officially adopted the five-inch limit on sliding towards the canal that is being used as an informal standard for movement.
Malek-Wiley also said questions remain about whether a required cap of 2 to 3 feet of clay was completely installed atop the old city landfill before the construction debris was added. He said the weight of the debris might cause material to shift in the landfill beneath it, causing leaks of potentially toxic materials into groundwater.
He said there’s also no requirement in the permit for the operators to monitor the landfill for releases of dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas.
Former Army Gen. Russel Honore’, who now heads the Green Army environmental group, said it was unjust to locate the landfill in the midst of a low-income part of the city among residents who don’t have the political power or money to fight it.
“This is not the New Orleans of 80 years ago where they would mandate to people, shut up, do it or leave,” he said.
“This is another stab in the back of poor people,” Honore’ said. “Why not put it in Lakeview near their million dollar homes, or in the Central Business District?”
Sean Tran, a resident of Slidell whose family owns the Crystal Palace restaurant at the intersection of Chef Menteur Boulevard and Read Boulevard, demanded that another hearing be held at Mary, Queen of Vietnam Church in eastern New Orleans, nearer to the landfill and convenient to the large Vietnamese-American community in that area.
He was one of several opponents complained that the hearing was held at the Lake Area New Tech Early College High School on Paris Avenue near the lakefront, rather than at the church, which was scheduled to be the original site of a January hearing on the permit.
The church and DEQ were forced to cancel that hearing because of broken pipes that flooded the area where the hearing would have been held, a DEQ official said, and the high school was chosen for the delayed meeting.
The change in location clearly affected attendance, which was less than 50. Several speakers said it also conflicted with an already-scheduled community meeting in the Village de L’Este neighborhood.
The DEQ is accepting comments on the permit until 4:30 p.m. on March 30. Written comments can be delivered to a dropbox at 602 N. 5th St., Baton Rouge, by mail to LDEQ, Public Participation Group, P.O. Box 4313, Baton Rouge LA 70821-4313, or by email to DEQ.Publicnotices@LA.GOV. Faxes can be sent to 225.219.3309.