Neighbors, politicians angry over proposed industrial landfill

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POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 4:04am

People who live in the north end of East Baton Rouge Parish want plans for a new dump to be trashed.

At a public hearing Monday night, politicians and a majority of residents said the want DEQ to reject a permit application for a private industrial landfill.

Louisiana Land Acquisitions, LLC wants to build a private landfill on the north side of Brooklawn Drive, roughly two miles west of Scenic Highway. In its permit application, the company estimates that as many as 90 trucks a day would deliver up to 11,000 pounds of waste each week.

DEQ held a public meeting to gain input on the proposal, and more than a hundred people showed up, including political leaders from the state and local levels. They were unanimous in their opposition.

"There is no way that I could support this landfill," said State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge).

Louisiana Land Acquisitions tried twice before to get permits to build a landfill on that site. In its most recent attempt, in 2009, DEQ denied the request, stating that there was no need, based on the availability of other landfills to handle to demand for waste storage.

East Baton Rouge Metro Council member Trae Welch, whose district includes the proposed location, said nothing has changed.

"We measure the capacity in this region that they want to serve in decades," he noted. "It's not necessary right now."

He was one of several people to allude to the possible health and safety concerns of such a dump. Mayor-president Kip Holden pointed out that some of the waste delivered to the site would be burned.

"Now, understand what comes out of that fire," he told the audience, "not just smoke, materials that can kill you."

Mayor Holden grew up near the proposed site, and still lives a short distance away. He claimed it would add to the environmental problems caused by other landfills in the area.

"We got areas that people would hunt and fish back in here, they can't hunt and fish there any more because of the amount of contamination that's in the water, and also the land," he said.

The city councils of Baker and Zachary had regularly scheduled meetings at the same time as the public hearing, but Baker's council passed a resolution of opposition to the landfill.

Welch added that, in the nearby neighborhoods of Alsen, he saw swing sets in the yards of some of the homes. "What that tells me is there's little kids that live right close to here," he said. "Who's going to be affected? It's those little kids."

A couple dozen people wore green shirts with Louisiana Land Acquisitions' name on them. The company, which is actually headquartered near Denver, Colo., has reached out to the community to try to win their support. It has promised to hire local employees at the landfill, and pledged money for children's programs. It also paid to fly a few people to Colorado to see other landfills that the company operates.

While some people gave the company their support, others saw those as empty gestures, at best.

"Yeah, they gave you $50,000. They might've flew you out to Colorado. But what is that to help out anybody else in the community?" asked Robert Fisher, who lives in Alsen. "To me, you ain't doing nothing but taking silver and gold and selling your soul to the devil."

"It's an embarrassing situation, for you in green t-shirts to come in and sell yourselves down the river for some TJ Ribs barbecue," asserted State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge).

Lafayette Harrison Jr. claimed he had heard too many people from around the parish try to convince him that the landfill is worth having. Alsen already has a private landfill in the community, and the East Baton Rouge Parish landfill is just down the street.

"Well if the dump is so good," he asked, "why don't you let them build a dump out by your house?"

The landfill permit also started a debate about civil rights.

"Why is it that landfills and toxic waste facilities are always put in communities of people of color?" State Sen. Weston Broome asked.

Juanita Stewart, another Alsen resident, said that even though the permit application has not yet been approved, she feels it is certain to be granted, and she called its impending arrival, "modern slavery."

"What we say we don't want, we seem like we're going to get it anyway," she said. "Wake up, DEQ, make the right decision, please."

Mayor Holden urged the crowd to reject what many called a "divide and conquer" strategy by Louisiana Land Acquisitions.

"All of us deserve better than to be sitting here tonight fighting each other over somebody else's waste."

DEQ will continue to accept public comments about the permit application until September 30.

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