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New Orleans Does Not Need Two New Superfund Sites, Inhofe Warns

Statement on GAO Report on Katrina Debris Removal


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today commented on the GAO (Government Accountability Office) report on the WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) mandate dealing with debris removal from areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

"I am pleased to see that GAO has followed the mandate Senator Vitter and I placed in the WRDA bill," Senator Inhofe said. "I have always believed that if you are going to do something, then do it the right way so that you do not have to do it again. The debris removal from Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans is not being handled using the best methods available, and this GAO report raises some serious environmental concerns about the debris removal and decision making process. The people of the city of New Orleans do not need two new Superfund sites; they need their hurricane debris removed.

“Hurricane Katrina was a devastating natural disaster for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  This hurricane was especially devastating to the city of New Orleans, leaving behind the greatest recorded amount of disaster-related debris in U.S. history.  I believe that the federal government has used taxpayer dollars to create one and most likely two soon-to-be Superfund sites in the city of New Orleans. Further, the federal government will have to use tax payer dollars to clean up these Superfund sites it has created. According to FEMA, through November 2007 the federal government has provided $3.4 billion for debris removal in Hurricane Katrina-impacted areas.  It is projected that another $800 million will be needed.   

“Another troubling issue raised by the GAO report concerns a draft February 2006 report prepared for FEMA by a consulting firm, the National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants (NISTAC), on the potential impacts from hurricane debris disposal at the Gentilly Landfill.  This report reviewed the debris removal steps taken and indicated serious concerns about the Gentilly Landfill.  Primary concerns that need further review are the geotechnical and environmental impacts on the adjacent levee of adding Katrina-related debris to the landfill. The report was never finalized, and it seems that it was ignored, even though it described in detail the numerous environmental issues and concerns coupled with the potential creation of a Superfund site. By not learning from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. The Agriculture Street Landfill in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, was reopened in 1965 to dispose of Hurricane Betsy debris.  After being declared a Superfund site and placed on the NPL (National Priorities List), the Agriculture Street Landfill has a current price tag of almost $22 million dollars to taxpayers.” 



The city of New Orleans is still operating under an Emergency Order, which has been extended multiple times since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. The GAO report sheds light on the permitting process and details the dumping of hazardous materials and incidental asbestos–contaminated waste in unlined landfills. One of the landfills that was selected, Chef Menteur Landfill, is located in between a national wildlife refuge and a minority residential community. This landfill has since been closed, but the damage to the surrounding area is unknown at this time. The other landfill, the Gentilly Landfill, is located on top of a former municipal waste landfill and next to a levee.  The GAO report listed numerous concerns with this particular landfill.  One of the concerns is that the landfill’s location next to the levee could impact the integrity of the levee.  Potential discharges of leachate (water that has come into contact with the waste from the landfill) could seep into the levee, and depending on the composition of the levee, its integrity could be compromised.


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Related Links:


Statement of James M. Inhofe Hearing: Full Committee Hearing Actions of EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration as they relate to Hurricane Katrina - October 6, 2005


Statement of James M. Inhofe Hearing: Full Committee: A Hearing on the Stafford Act: A Path Forward for the Nation’s Emergency Preparedness and Response System - July 27, 2006