DEQ focus is on disposal of 22 million tons of
Baton Rouge, LA— A daunting
task that is prevalent throughout the coastal parishes concerns
what to do with the more than 22 million tons of debris brought
about by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Department of Environmental
Quality has been working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and other state, local and federal officials to dispose
of the large amounts, and many types of waste.
The debris has to be separated
into proper categories before it can be disposed of in an environmentally
sound manner. For example, white goods such as air conditioners
and refrigerators must have the Freon, fluids and/or contents
removed before they can be recycled. Municipal waste, such as
food and curbside trash, goes to a certain landfill, construction
and demolition debris goes to another type of landfill and hazardous
material goes to yet another type of landfill.
“What we are trying to
do is dispose of the overwhelming amount of debris in an environmentally
sound and efficient manner,” said DEQ Assistant Secretary
of Environmental Services Chuck Brown.
Brown explained that properly
closed landfills could be reopened if they are technically sound
and meet all the environmental regulations for permit approval.
He also said that, because of time and environmental reasons,
location is important in deciding which landfill receives the
waste it is permitted to receive.
“Take the Old Gentilly
Landfill for instance,” Brown said. “It’s located
in Orleans Parish. It was granted a permit in December 2004. It
is permitted to take construction and demolition debris. There
is so much debris in New Orleans east after Katrina that it just
makes sense to have permitted landfills operating, taking in as
much C&D waste as they are permitted to take. Close proximity
to the impacted area is important to help speed up the clean-up
Brown said the issue is not about
capacity at any particular landfill. The real issue is about processing
“When the trucks come in
to the landfill, they have to be properly processed before leaving
the waste,” Brown said. “You don’t want trucks
hauling tons of debris on the roads then having them backed up
for four or five hours to unload their haul. That’s inefficient
and environmentally unsound.”
Much of the wood waste from trees
will be burned using air curtain destructors. These devices have
been successful in other instances where a large amount of debris
had to be disposed of. Because it burns at high temperatures,
using sophisticated technology, the amount of smoke is reduced
and the burn is more complete – leaving little ash.