Louisiana officials and enviros clash over disposal of hurricane debris

The pressure on regional officials to cleanse New Orleans of the trash and debris left by Hurricane Katrina is intense — so intense that eco-groups say they’re cutting corners, sending garbage to areas not equipped to handle it, and on the verge of creating a Superfund-sized toxic problem. Illegal dumping in the swampland east of residential New Orleans is already openly tolerated. Also, the state Department of Environmental Quality recently reopened a city-owned garbage dump in the same area that was shut down by federal regulators years ago. Yesterday, the Sierra Club and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network filed suit to stop most kinds of dumping in the landfill, charging that it wasn’t constructed to prevent groundwater contamination. Said LEAN lawyer Robert Wiygul, “We don’t want to respond to one disaster by creating another one.” But the state claims the landfill meets “all the standards,” and anyway, said a DEQ official, “the ultimate goal is speed.”