Mayor Ray Nagin agreed Wednesday to close a controversial construction and demolition landfill in eastern New Orleans for 72 business hours to give environmental and community groups a chance to test the debris that has been dumped there and determine whether it poses hazards to nearby residents as well as to the adjacent Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.Good for the residents of Village de l’Est.
More importantly, in the view of landfill opponents, Nagin promised to close the site if testing shows it to be "harmful" to nearby communities.
If the landfill is found to be “harmful” to the residents, there needs to be an investigation into why adequate environmental testing wasn’t done before opening the landfill. It is criminal for a mayor to endanger the health of his own citizens in the name of expediency.
The timing of Nagin’s compromise, though, is questionable:
Nagin's announcement Wednesday came a day after a state Senate committee approved a bill that could force landfills approved under emergency rules to close, if it is determined that the state has sufficient landfill capacity for the debris generated by Katrina.That would be SB718:
Proposed law provides that if it is determined that sufficient capacity currently exists to accept construction and demolition debris pursuant to the provisions of proposed law, unless a written parish waste plan is adopted by the respective governing authority and approved by the chief executive officer of each affected parish wherein the continued use of such landfill is deemed appropriate, then any landfill currently operating under an administrative order or by any declaration of emergency or otherwise will be closed within 30 days of the effective date of proposed law.Basically, this proposed law says if there is already space for waste elsewhere in other parishes, all emergency landfills must close, unless the parishes say they don't want the waste.
There are also two other state bills that, if passed, would close the site – one not permitting landfills in New Orleans East and the other not permitting landfills in parishes with a population of over 475,000 in the last census, which includes New Orleans.
This landfill has a high probability of being closed by the state. Nagin can only gather favorable PR before the election by calling for a 72-operating-hour halt to perform environmental safety tests. If the tests say the landfill is safe, then he looks like he cared enough to have them performed. If the tests say the landfill is harmful, then he closes it even though the state probably would have closed it eventually anyway.
However, don’t expect him to win over any of the Village de l’Est votes. According to Google maps, the landfill sits about two miles by car from the nearest residents and next to a canal that runs through the nearest neighborhood. Community leaders say that the nearest residents actually live less than a mile away. And if the tests say the landfill is safe, the residents still have to deal with a landfill close to their homes. If the tests say the landfill is harmful, then they must question why any mayor would endanger the health of his own residents by using temporary emergency powers to sidestep rules set in place to protect those residents.
Even if the landfill turns out to be “safe,” one must still question the rationale of dumping waste so close to a community that is struggling but succeeding to rebuild after already being dumped on once by Katrina.
Check out the “help stop the NOLA East Landfill” blog for more info.
UPDATE via adrastos:
More temporary than I thought.
Members of a New Orleans East community who had protested a landfill on Chef Menteur were outraged Thursday when they saw debris still being dumped at the site, a day after Mayor Ray Nagin promised to temporarily shut it down.I now do not like this man.