Between late 2006 and the end of 2007, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) issued enforcement actions against five landfills in and around New Orleans that received debris, construction and demolition materials and other refuse left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Accusations included failing to keep records documenting the removal and disposal of unauthorized waste; failing to segregate unauthorized waste in separate containers; depositing waste without checking for unacceptable material such as paint, creosote, telephone poles and other banned materials; failing to lay down daily cover material; and a host of other actions long prohibited by landfill regulations.
atrina spawned disposal problems across the region. In eastern New Orleans the Almonaster Corridor, which has provided city residents and others with illegal trash and debris dumping opportunities for decades, became a magnet for Katrina debris.
Problems in the Corridor got so bad that in March and April of 2007 the LDEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana National Guard mounted an operation called Cleansweep to put a stop to illegal dumping in the area and to close down a number of unpermitted facilities.
Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the operation installed video cameras at illegal dumping sites throughout the corridor. The video surveillance led to inspections of all properties along a five-mile strip of the corridor. LDEQ’s enforcement division issued violations to 147 of 178 sites that were inspected. Many were related to Katrina.
By mid-May of 2008, LDEQ could point to 120 enforcement actions for violations related to the disposal of debris from Katrina. It’s a powerful example what happens when emergency planners fail to consider the massive needs for waste and debris removal that arise after a major disaster. It takes proper planning by local officials with reputable, knowledge- able and capable waste and recycling haulers and landfill operators to ensure the proper sorting and disposal of storm debris.
While emergency planners have been struggling to get disaster waste management right for decades, the increased frequency of extreme weather events is highlighting that need. In general, the terrorist attacks of 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently Superstorm Sandy have underlined the critical importance of competent waste management in recovering from a disaster.