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Day 967: Sinkholes At “Former” Ninth Ward Superfund Site

Which up until 1994 was the site of an elementary school and surrounding community that were initially put there by the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the Desire Community Housing Corporation.

NO City Business: Superfund dilemma pollutes school master plan

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains its cleanup from 1994 to 2000 has made the former site of Moton Elementary School safe … The EPA asserts a 3-foot deep layer of topsoil placed on the property prevents buried toxic contaminants from surfacing.

… 6-foot deep holes alongside the building are a cause for alarm, but [EPA spokesman Dave Bary] said no toxins have been found at the site since its Superfund status was removed.

Sarah Elise Lewis is quoted in the above article and on the case.  She has video-documented the sinkholes, which I urge you to watch in full for more details on the top soil and subsidence.

… The breaches of the levees could have provided a rare opportunity to try to make right the mistakes of the past in this neighborhood, built on a toxic landfill. Placing a moratorium on building permits, offering homeowners’ equitable buyout programs and assistance in moving to safer areas. Returning the area to its natural state. All could have been done with some foresight. Instead homeowners are moving back into environmentally compromised homes and the school sits unsecured and full of furnishings.

and visits the site periodically.

I went back to Moton yesterday to take a few pictures … And so I am angry. Not that the school is ungutted, unsecured, and still full of its contents nearly three years after Katrina, but because a neighborhood was ever built there in the first place.

Besides the possible exhumation of untreated contaminants from a shallow grave, there is another glaring threat: the sinkholes themselves, which suggests the ground in the area is structurally unsound to build upon.  Six feet is enough to instigate building collapse.  Nothing should be rebuilt in this area, especially not schools and homes.

These are the things a RECOVERY school district, a RECOVERY czar and a RECOVERY-oriented city government ought to have been able to achieve consensus and make progress on by now.

3 comments… add one
  • Dave April 21, 2008, 4:33 PM

    Very Interesting, Maitri– Thanks.

    Yet another fascinating cleanup site in the 9th Ward– we have so much to learn from them!

  • celcus April 23, 2008, 8:06 AM

    For the sake of argument, lets assume the clean-up was effective and the the foundations can accommodate the soil conditions on the site…

    Assuming all that, I have to ask: who in their right mind even conceives of building a school on a former toxic clean-up site?

    Don’t these idiots realize that most parents are quite sensitive to anything that might seem to possibly pose some kind of known or unknown threat to their children and will raise holy hell if someone even has a cigarette in a three block radius or is painting their house in the next parish over?

  • Alan Gutierrez April 24, 2008, 5:29 PM

    And yet people are still living in that neighborhood, that’s where they have their home after all, and their children are being bussed Uptown.

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