RIVERGATE TRASH DUMPED INTO LAKE IN ERROR

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 1995
Edition: THIRD
Section: METRO
Page: B1
Byline: By FRANK DONZE Staff writer

Text: 

In theory, it was logical: Use the Rivergate's crumbled, concrete remains to help reclaim a portion of Lake Pontchartrain near West End for a small park.

But somewhere along the line, the city's plan to use rubble from the future site of Harrah's New Orleans Casino went awry, and unauthorized materials such as plywood, aluminum sheets, pipes and other construction debris also were dumped into the water.

No asbestos was among the debris, officials said.

"Whatever went into the lake - and some of it looked like it was trash - it shouldn't have been done," said Carlton Dufrechou, director of the Lake Pontchartrain Foundation, a watchdog group dedicated to cleaning up the lake.

While the construction debris is not considered hazardous, Dufrechou said materials such as pipes and aluminum could cause settling problems for the lakefront reclamation project.

Admitting a mistake was made, officials in Mayor Marc Morial's administration said Tuesday that they have corrected the problem.

"When we learned of the situation, we immediately contacted Harrah's and they have complied with our requests," said Sharon Herrington, director of the mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs. "And to ensure that it doesn't happen again, we have posted a security guard to inspect each load as it arrives."

About two dozen employees of Harrah's general contractor, Centex Landis Construction Co., were at the lakefront Tuesday, removing unauthorized material from the lakefront site along Breakwater Drive.

But Dufrechou said he is concerned that the foundation and area residents were not told about the dumping. "We don't know exactly what this is supposed to be, how big it is or what permits were obtained," Dufrechou said. "We're all functioning with a lack of knowledge."

Herrington said plans to create a small park along Breakwater Drive have been on the drawing board for more than 10 years, and the first dumping took place several years ago.

A state permit authorizing the city to pour concrete fill into the lake at the site expires in November, and Herrington said the city moved quickly to take advantage of the tons of debris available from the Rivergate demolition, which was completed last week.

Herrington said the city is paying to have the concrete dumped in the lake.

When money becomes available to finish the project, she said, the city will spread topsoil and plant trees and grass.

Owners of the boathouses on Breakwater Drive began complaining to the city and the Lake Foundation about the dumping two weeks ago.

Herrington said she contacted Harrah's and thought the improper dumping had been halted. But area residents said trucks carrying concrete rubble mixed with wood, steel and other building materials were still arriving Monday.

Herrington said improper materials taken to the site will be set aside for later removal.

Larry Wiesepape, certifications coordinator with the state Department of Environmental Quality, said a state inspector and Army Corps of Engineers officials will inspect the site today.

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Rubble dumped into Lake Pontchartrain

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Illustration: A truck carries a load of concrete and other debris from demolition of the Rivergate Monday to be used as landfill for the construction of a park on Breakwater Drive at the lakefront.

Problems arose when officials found that unauthorized materials were in the debris.

STAFF PHOTO BY TED JACKSON



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