July 13, 2006

Environmentalists Celebrate Katrina Dump Closing

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Environmentalists in New Orleans wary of a post-hurricane ecological disaster claimed victory on Thursday when the mayor agreed to quit using a dump on the edge of a wildlife refuge to dispose of storm debris.

Hurricane Katrina struck last August and produced 22 million tons of construction debris statewide, much of it in New Orleans. The storm flooded 80 percent of the city, much of which was mired in a toxic brew of storm water for weeks.

A Vietnamese community near the site and concerned environmentalists feared the Chef Menteur landfill would leak into the water table and could flood residential communities in another storm.

State and city officials had rejected those fears, but Mayor Ray Nagin said in a statement on Thursday that he would not renew the executive order that allowed the dump to open and that it would close on August 14.

"We are elated that the mayor has finally reacted. This is a victory for the rebuilding of New Orleans and for the vitality of New Orleans East," said Joel Waltzer, attorney for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, who had led a court challenge to stop the Chef Menteur dump.