Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Orleans 'Recovery': Front Line News

While sitting on the patio at my hotel this evening, I got chatting to a fellow who was also staying at the hotel. He was in from Baton Rouge, working with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). It turns out that he was in town on a mission.

Apparently, a big problem in the city these days is private landfills. It seems that some landowners have come up with a new way of making money. They let their land be used as landfills, even though they have no license to do so. Naturally, these less than entirely legal operations do not feel inclined to bother with tedious environmental regulations.

According to the fellow I chatted to, this is not a subtle business. The landowners have bulldozers to pile up and stack the waste. Using licensed landfills to dispose of materials is not a cheap business. As there are still many contractors in town, in addition to the traditional methods of saving money, like employing illegal aliens and then not paying them, these less than ethical types save money by using illegal landfills. Illegal landfills will give a discount price on dumping materials and will not ask too many questions about the waste they are accepting.

My informant told me that one of the big issues is asbestos. This stuff is nasty and dangerous. It is also quite common in older structures. Rather than going through all the trouble of doing things safely, for those who only have a commitment to the bottom line, just dumping this stuff in an illegal site is a 'cost effective' alternative. It seems that doing things properly and thereby protecting the population can be avoided by just using illegal sites.

With people like these contractors and these cowboy landfill operators 'assisting' with hurricane recovery, it almost makes the irresponsibility of FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and all the bent and incompetent political types seem minimal. The really sad part about all this is that these cowboy contractors and their illegal dump running friends are still probably the only people who are actually seeing any federal dollars. I thanked the man from DEQ. If it was not for the fact that these activities will make people sick, the situation would make me feel sick.

The CP

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