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entitled 'Hurricane Katrina: Continuing Debris Removal and Disposal 
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August 25, 2008: 

The Honorable Barbara Boxer: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable James M. Inhofe: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Environment and Public Works: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable James L. Oberstar: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable John L. Mica: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Hurricane Katrina: Continuing Debris Removal and Disposal 
Issues: 

In 2005, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, more than 1,600 people lost 
their lives and more than a million were driven from their homes on the 
Gulf Coast. Tens of thousands of homes in New Orleans were flooded, 
many requiring either demolition or gutting before reconstruction. 
Nearly 3 years later, the New Orleans area still faces significant 
debris management issues and challenges. For example, the Louisiana 
Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) stated that while the 
Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency 
(FEMA) estimated in July 2008 that it had funded about 16,900 home 
demolitions, an estimated 6,100 homes remained to be demolished around 
the New Orleans area. Further, it is estimated that when the demolition 
and renovation of damaged property in the New Orleans area resulting 
from Hurricane Katrina are completed, more than 100 million cubic yards 
of disaster debris will have been generated.[Footnote 1] This is more 
than twice the amount of disaster-related debris generated in 1992 by 
Hurricane Andrew--the event that prior to Hurricane Katrina had 
resulted in the greatest recorded amount of disaster-related debris in 
U.S. history. 

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act 
(Stafford Act) establishes programs and processes for the federal 
government to provide major disaster and emergency assistance to 
states, local governments, tribal nations, and others. FEMA has the 
responsibility for administering the provisions of the Stafford Act, 
including approving and funding the assistance provided under it. This 
assistance has been provided to the Gulf Coast under the Department of 
Homeland Security's National Response Framework (formerly called the 
National Response Plan). The National Response Framework is the basis 
for how federal agencies have worked with state and local entities in 
managing the coordinated federal response to Hurricane Katrina. In New 
Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps of Engineers) was the 
primary federal agency responsible for providing debris removal and 
disposal until it concluded its response activities in September 2007. 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the coordinator of federal 
emergency support for oil and hazardous materials releases, also 
assisted the Corps of Engineers and LDEQ with debris removal and 
disposal and continues to undertake Katrina response activities, such 
as monitoring landfill operations. FEMA has agreed to continue funding 
EPA's activities through August 29, 2008, at which point EPA expects 
that it will conclude its Katrina response activities. 

The federal law addressing the management of hazardous and other solid 
wastes--the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act--addresses 
nonhazardous solid wastes under subtitle D. According to subtitle D, 
states have primary responsibility for permitting, monitoring, and 
carrying out enforcement actions at solid waste disposal facilities 
(generally referred to as landfills), as well as developing waste 
management plans in accordance with minimum federal 
requirements.[Footnote 2] EPA regulations establish criteria for 
classifying different types of landfills and practices that may result 
in adverse effects on health or the environment, among other things. 
The act prohibits "open dumping"--the disposal of solid waste in 
landfills failing to meet the relevant criteria--and requires state 
plans to prohibit the establishment of open dumps.[Footnote 3] RCRA 
provides EPA with limited authority to address environmental problems 
at solid waste landfills. 

The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 directed GAO to address 
certain activities related to debris management in the wake of 
Hurricane Katrina. We briefed relevant committee staff on the results 
of our work on March 6, 2008, and held subsequent discussions with them 
in March and April 2008. We are following up with this report, which 
provides more detail on the topics covered in the briefing. This report 
describes (1) key plans and practices federal and state agencies are 
currently using to oversee debris removal and disposal in response to 
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, (2) enforcement actions state and 
federal agencies have taken related to Katrina debris removal and 
disposal, and (3) actions by LDEQ and EPA in response to potential 
environmental issues at the Gentilly Landfill in New Orleans. The 
report also provides information on the status of the Chef Menteur 
Landfill in New Orleans; an EPA disaster debris reduction pilot project 
in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana; and a debris provision in the Water 
Resources Development Act. 

Our review focused on EPA's and LDEQ's 2007 and 2008 debris-related 
Hurricane Katrina response activities in the New Orleans area, where 
the vast majority of the debris was generated.[Footnote 4] In 
conducting this work, we reviewed EPA, LDEQ, and Corps of Engineers 
documents on debris removal and disposal practices in use in New 
Orleans in response to Katrina, including federal and state regulatory 
requirements and other agency practices. We also reviewed EPA and LDEQ 
plans for overseeing debris removal and disposal in New Orleans, and we 
followed up on relevant prior GAO recommendations to EPA from our June 
2007 report, Hurricane Katrina: EPA's Current and Future Environmental 
Protection Efforts Could Be Enhanced by Addressing Issues and 
Challenges Faced on the Gulf Coast (GAO-07-651). In addition, we 
reviewed EPA and LDEQ documents on the number and types of debris 
management enforcement actions related to Hurricane Katrina in 
Louisiana and interviewed officials regarding the nature and results of 
these actions. Finally, as agreed, we reviewed a draft February 2006 
report prepared for FEMA by a consulting firm, the National 
Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants, on the 
potential environmental impacts from hurricane debris disposal at the 
Gentilly Landfill. We discussed the draft report with EPA and LDEQ 
officials and obtained information on actions LDEQ took to settle a 
lawsuit filed by an environmental organization that also responded to 
some issues raised in the draft report. We did not evaluate the 
technical merits of the draft report or the effectiveness of LDEQ's 
responses. We conducted our work from December 2007 to August 2008 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, which 
require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, 
appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence 
obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions 
based on our audit objectives. 

Overview: 

Key plans and practices state and federal agencies are using to oversee 
and implement debris removal and disposal in response to Hurricane 
Katrina in New Orleans include (1) a state emergency order covering 
debris removal and disposal at landfills, currently extended until 
August 29, 2008; (2) EPA "no action assurance" letters to LDEQ 
concerning asbestos emissions requirements related to building 
demolitions; and (3) EPA's asbestos emissions monitoring plan. In 
addition, both LDEQ and EPA have issued guidance related to disaster 
cleanup and debris management. The state emergency order broadens the 
state of Louisiana's definition of construction and demolition (C&D) 
debris. Initially promulgated in August 2005, a November 2005 amendment 
to the emergency order allows some potentially hazardous materials-- 
including furniture, carpeting, painted or stained lumber contained in 
demolished buildings, and the incidental mixture of "construction and 
demolition debris with asbestos-contaminated waste" that cannot be 
extracted from C&D debris--to be disposed of in C&D landfills rather 
than in landfills with liners approved for such waste.[Footnote 5] The 
broadened C&D debris definition was initially approved for landfills in 
25 Louisiana parishes but has been scaled back in emergency order 
amendments to cover fewer parishes and specific landfills; it is 
currently applicable to four named landfills in 3 parishes until August 
29, 2008. In July 2008, LDEQ officials said the agency would likely 
continue to reauthorize the expanded C&D definition for some landfills 
beyond that date under an amended state emergency order. We note that 
LDEQ amended and completely replaced its solid waste regulations in 
June 2007; at that time, LDEQ revised its regulatory definition of C&D 
debris, which is now more similar to the emergency order. According to 
LDEQ officials, special authority under the emergency order would be 
needed only to dispose of furniture and carpeting in C&D landfills. 

Regarding asbestos practices, since 2006--under EPA no action assurance 
letters--EPA has not been enforcing certain Clean Air Act regulations 
for asbestos for homes demolished under government orders. EPA has 
narrowed the areas covered by the no action assurance letters over 
time, initially covering all homes in Louisiana that were damaged by 
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and met specified criteria. As of February 
2008, residences in five parishes meeting specified criteria are 
effectively not subject to otherwise applicable requirements for 
inspection and removal of asbestos prior to demolition until August 29, 
2008, provided certain emission control practices are followed. In 
terms of oversight of debris removal and disposal activities, key 
practices that LDEQ and EPA are using include surveillance at landfills 
and other debris sites--daily observations at landfills receiving large 
quantities of Katrina debris; observations at demolitions sites; and 
monitoring of asbestos emissions at demolition sites. Specifically, EPA 
and LDEQ said that they have conducted 3,364 landfill observations at 
13 landfill and debris storage or staging sites since October 2005, and 
the agencies have observed demolition activities at 8,706 residences 
since March 2006. EPA has also monitored for asbestos emissions at 300 
demolitions in the New Orleans area since August 2007. The pace of home 
demolitions, which are now managed by the individual parishes, 
continues to be slow.[Footnote 6] For example, as stated in our June 
2007 report, LDEQ indicated that 12,000 residence demolitions funded by 
FEMA had been completed by February 2007. However, 17 months later and 
nearing the 3-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, LDEQ provided FEMA 
estimates showing that, as of July 2008, only another 5,000 of these 
home demolitions had been completed--with an estimated 6,100 more 
remaining in the New Orleans area. Enclosure I provides more 
information regarding key plans and practices currently guiding state 
and federal agencies' debris removal and disposal in response to 
Katrina. 

As of May 15, 2008, LDEQ had issued 120 enforcement actions for 
Hurricane Katrina-related violations. Fifty-three of these actions 
involved solid waste, hazardous waste, or water program actions taken 
against businesses or individuals who, among other things, improperly 
disposed of C&D debris at unauthorized sites. LDEQ's 120 enforcement 
actions also included actions taken against five C&D landfills that 
received Katrina C&D debris: Empire Pit, Gentilly, Industrial Pipe, 
Slidell, and Stranco. Though the violations at these five C&D landfills 
varied, those at Industrial Pipe and Slidell included disposing of 
unauthorized waste such as tires, medical waste, and creosote telephone 
poles; as a result, LDEQ's enforcement actions at these two landfills 
also included potential penalties against the landfills' operators. 
Other violations at landfills included failing to cover waste with 12 
inches of soil every 14 days, failing to meet effluent limitations, and 
inadequate supervision and security of the site. LDEQ issued seven air- 
related violations, all of which related to the handling of asbestos- 
containing materials, such as failing to adequately wet the asbestos-- 
a critical step in controlling the release of asbestos fibers into the 
air--and failing to dispose of the material after removal as soon as 
practical. 

In other enforcement actions, LDEQ worked with EPA, the Corps of 
Engineers, and the Louisiana National Guard in a joint effort to combat 
illegal dumping activities after the hurricane in an area east of New 
Orleans called the Almonaster Corridor. Although illegal dumping had 
been a problem in this area for many years prior to Hurricane Katrina, 
the amount of debris from the hurricane greatly exacerbated illegal 
dumping in the area. Together, in March and April 2007, the agencies 
inspected 178 sites and referred 147 to LDEQ's enforcement division. 
Violations from this effort included the unauthorized disposal of solid 
waste, transporting solid waste to an unauthorized location, and open 
burning of debris. LDEQ expects to complete an overall summary of this 
effort by the end of the summer of 2008. Enclosure II provides more 
information regarding enforcement actions taken in response to Katrina. 

We reported in June 2007 that LDEQ made decisions about landfills and 
the disposal of debris that some studies suggest could have long-term, 
negative environmental impacts. One of the landfills highlighted in our 
report, the Gentilly Landfill, is constructed on top of a former 
municipal waste landfill that operated from the early 1960s until the 
mid-1980s. In authorizing the use of this landfill for hurricane debris 
disposal, LDEQ stated that it had considered alternative sites and 
determined that the Gentilly Landfill met state solid waste 
requirements.[Footnote 7] Further, LDEQ considered the proximity of the 
Gentilly Landfill--one of four landfills currently authorized by 
emergency order to receive C&D debris under a broadened definition that 
includes some potentially hazardous materials--to the hurricane- 
generated C&D debris. However, the use of this landfill has been 
controversial. For example, FEMA has questioned whether federal 
agencies could become liable to pay cleanup costs if the landfill were 
to become a Superfund site. In response to a request from FEMA, EPA 
provided a technical analysis and recommendation for the use of the 
Gentilly Landfill. EPA concluded that while there is no way "to protect 
against future Superfund liability absolutely"--particularly for a 
landfill--the use of the landfill appeared to be consistent with the 
types and volumes of wastes for which it was designed and permitted by 
the state. To further assess concerns about the Gentilly Landfill, FEMA 
contracted with a firm to study the landfill to help it make debris 
management decisions. The subsequent February 2006 draft report 
included a number of recommendations to address concerns related to 
possible environmental impacts at the site. At the same time, LDEQ was 
facing a lawsuit from an environmental group. LDEQ officials told us 
that although they had concerns about the quality of the draft report 
and they disagreed with some of the recommendations, the agency took 
steps that addressed a number of the recommendations in the draft 
report. The actions taken were aimed at settling the lawsuit, but there 
were a number of similarities in the draft report's recommendations and 
the charges in the lawsuit. The actions LDEQ would take were agreed 
upon at a February 2006 meeting with officials from LDEQ, EPA, the 
Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and the consulting firm that developed the 
draft report for FEMA. EPA concurred with LDEQ's actions at the 
landfill, which included installing ground and surface water monitoring 
systems and limiting the volume of debris accepted at the landfill. 
Enclosure III provides more information regarding debris disposal 
issues and the actions taken by LDEQ and EPA at the Gentilly Landfill 
to address them. 

Finally, we are providing information on (1) the status of the Chef 
Menteur Landfill in New Orleans, (2) a disaster debris reduction pilot 
project in St. Bernard Parish that was scaled back prior to its 
implementation in June 2008, and (3) the effect of a debris provision 
in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. First, the Chef Menteur 
Landfill, which was controversial because of its proximity to a 
national wildlife refuge and a residential neighborhood, was opened 
under emergency authority in April 2006 and closed in August 2006. 
However, final closure activities have not yet been performed. Further, 
the landfill underwent comprehensive testing in November 2007 after 
citizen complaints regarding odor. None of the air samples exceeded 
state or federal regulations. The landfill is currently waiting on, 
among other things, a Corps of Engineers permit under section 404 of 
the Clean Water Act, after which final closure activity can 
commence.[Footnote 8] Second, EPA conducted a disaster debris reduction 
pilot in St. Bernard Parish in June 2008. According to EPA, this pilot 
was originally planned to test methods for disposing of regulated 
asbestos-containing material. The two planned methods to be evaluated 
involved (1) grinding asbestos-containing waste material from homes and 
(2) burning asbestos-containing waste material from homes using a 
thermal treatment process called an "air curtain burner." However, the 
asbestos pilot project became controversial, in part because of 
community concerns. EPA has acknowledged that an error in its risk 
estimate of the potential health effects of exposure to asbestos 
related to the pilot was a factor in the decision to exclude regulated 
asbestos-containing material from the revised pilot. According to EPA, 
the new pilot was limited to the burning of vegetative and C&D debris 
and was redesigned to specifically exclude regulated asbestos- 
containing material. Third, a provision of the Water Resources 
Development Act prohibits federal funds from being used to reimburse 
any state or local entity in Louisiana for the disposal of C&D debris 
in a C&D landfill in Louisiana unless that waste meets the federal 
definition of that debris. However, federal regulations do not 
specifically define C&D debris, instead stating that a C&D landfill 
"typically receives any one or more of the following types of solid 
wastes: roadwork material, excavated material, demolition waste, 
construction/renovation waste, and site clearance waste." While 
Louisiana regulations are more stringent than federal guidelines, under 
the emergency order still in effect in five parishes, the debris that 
C&D landfills can receive includes some potentially hazardous materials 
that normally would not be allowed to be disposed of in unlined C&D 
landfills under Louisiana's regulations. However, in August 2006, EPA 
Region 6 reviewed LDEQ's C&D debris definition under the emergency 
order and determined that the types of waste "seem consistent with what 
EPA identifies as material typically sent to a C&D landfill." While 
LDEQ officials acknowledged that the provision has therefore not 
impacted debris disposal operations, EPA and LDEQ officials emphasized 
that C&D disposal practices in Louisiana have complied with the 
provisions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. Enclosure IV 
provides more information regarding the Chef Menteur Landfill, the EPA 
disaster debris reduction pilot project, and the Water Resources 
Development Act debris provision. 

While we are not making recommendations based on the work we conducted 
for this review, we made six recommendations in our 2007 Hurricane 
Katrina report addressing several environmental issues as well as 
Katrina-related communications to the public about environmental health 
risks.[Footnote 9] During our current review, we found that EPA has 
taken actions in response to two of the recommendations: (1) developing 
and implementing an expanded asbestos monitoring plan in the New 
Orleans area to provide monitoring at demolition sites and (2) 
providing more detailed guidance to state and local entities on 
managing debris disposal following disasters. We have requested but not 
yet received information from EPA on its responses to the other four 
recommendations in our 2007 report. As we are currently in another 
hurricane season, we encourage EPA to expeditiously complete its 
responses to all of the recommendations in our prior report, which are 
aimed at minimizing environmental risks from future disasters and 
providing environmental health risk information to the public that is 
timely, complete, clear, and consistent. Looking ahead, we also 
encourage EPA to carefully consider the continued need to waive certain 
aspects of the Clean Air Act's asbestos requirements for building 
demolitions and to work with LDEQ as it considers whether it is 
necessary to continue to allow carpeting and furniture into some C&D 
landfills. While much work continues, important factors that should be 
carefully weighed in considering extensions beyond the 3-year 
anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2008, are the continued 
slow pace of activities--independent of the relaxation of these 
environmental standards--and the possible culmination of FEMA-funded 
EPA support in conducting oversight of landfill operations and 
demolitions in the New Orleans area. 

Agency Comments and our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft of this report to EPA and LDEQ for review and 
comment. EPA generally agreed with the information in the report and 
provided some recommended changes, and LDEQ provided technical comments 
for consideration. We incorporated comments from both agencies, as 
appropriate. EPA's letter and our response to it appear in enclosure V, 
while LDEQ's letter and our response are provided in enclosure VI. 

We are providing copies of this report to interested congressional 
committees, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 
and the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 
We will also make copies available to others upon request. In addition, 
this report will be available on the GAO Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staffs have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-3841 or stephensonj@gao.gov. Contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report were 
Christine Fishkin, Assistant Director; Richard Johnson; Kirk Menard; 
Joanna Owusu. Ben Shouse, Michael Derr, and Phylis Cline also made 
important contributions to this report. 

Signed by: 

John B. Stephenson: 

Director, Natural Resources and Environment: 

Enclosures: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure I: Key Federal and State Plans and Practices to Oversee 
Debris Removal and Disposal: 

Following are the key plans and practices the Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality 
(LDEQ) are currently using to oversee debris removal and disposal in 
response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. 

Key Debris Removal Plans and Practices: 

LDEQ emergency order. Debris removal in the New Orleans area is 
conducted under the terms of LDEQ's February 29, 2008, Declaration of 
Emergency and Administrative Order, which is in effect until August 29, 
2008. Initially promulgated on August 30, 2005, and applicable to 25 of 
the state's 64 parishes, the emergency order has been amended and 
extended numerous times. The second amended emergency order issued on 
November 2, 2005, included provisions broadening the state's definition 
of construction and demolition (C&D) debris. Specifically, under the 
November 2005 amended emergency order: 

* the types of debris that C&D landfills can receive was broadened to 
include some potentially hazardous materials, including furniture, 
carpeting, and painted or stained lumber contained in demolished 
buildings; and "the incidental admixture of construction and demolition 
debris with asbestos-contaminated waste[Footnote 10] (i.e., incidental 
asbestos-contaminated debris that cannot be extracted from the 
demolition debris)." 

In June 2007, LDEQ amended and completely replaced its solid waste 
regulations; at that time, LDEQ revised its regulatory definition of 
C&D debris, which LDEQ officials stated is now more similar to the 
emergency order.[Footnote 11] As a result, according to these 
officials, the only materials cited in the emergency order that are not 
allowed in C&D landfills under LDEQ's current regulations are furniture 
and carpeting. 

Beginning with the eighth amended emergency order issued on January 19, 
2007, LDEQ reduced the number of parishes in the emergency area covered 
by the order to eight, noting the progress of hurricane recovery 
efforts.[Footnote 12] The ninth amended emergency order issued on March 
19, 2007, further reduced the number of covered parishes to 
six.[Footnote 13] Importantly, this order also limited the sites 
authorized to dispose of hurricane-generated C&D debris under the 
broadened debris definition to those specifically named in the 
emergency order: Gentilly, Highway 90, River Birch, Stranco, and 
Tidewater Sanitary landfills. The order states that the progress of 
recovery efforts in the emergency area reduced the need for disposal 
facilities for C&D debris and that after consultation with the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers (Corps of Engineers) and local government 
authorities, certain facilities were selected based upon consideration 
of available permitted landfill capacity, quantities and types of 
debris remaining, the distance between landfills and remaining debris, 
and other factors. 

The February 2008 emergency order currently in effect is the Third 
Extension of the Twelfth Amended Declaration of Emergency and 
Administrative Order and covers five parishes: Jefferson, Orleans, 
Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany. Under the order, four 
landfills located in three of the five parishes can receive C&D debris 
as defined above: Gentilly (Orleans Parish), Highway 90 (Jefferson 
Parish), River Birch (Jefferson Parish), and Tidewater Sanitary 
(Plaquemines Parish). LDEQ's extension of the current emergency order 
through August 29, 2008, notes that the need for an additional 
extension to the emergency order will be evaluated by the order's 
expiration date. The emergency order extension further notes that 
should the order be extended beyond August 29, 2008, the regulatory 
flexibility afforded by the expanded definition of C&D debris will no 
longer be necessary to respond to the Hurricane Katrina emergency in 
Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Tammany Parishes once the parishes have 
a reasonable opportunity to prepare for the change. According to the 
extension, LDEQ may decide to continue to authorize the expanded C&D 
debris definition in Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes after August 29, 
2008, if many houses remain to be demolished in these parishes at that 
time. In July 2008, LDEQ officials said the agency would likely 
continue to reauthorize the expanded C&D definition for some landfills 
beyond that date under an amended state emergency order. 

EPA asbestos "no action assurance." Since 2006, to facilitate the 
removal of the extraordinary amounts of debris after Hurricane Katrina, 
EPA has not been enforcing certain Clean Air Act regulations (called 
work practice standards) for asbestos in the case of government-ordered 
demolitions of homes, using "no action assurance" letters to 
LDEQ.[Footnote 14] Specifically, under the current "no action 
assurance" letter issued in February 2008, residences in five New 
Orleans area parishes that are subject to a government-issued 
demolition order based on the residence being (1) structurally unsound 
but not necessarily in danger of imminent collapse, (2) moved off of 
its foundation, or (3) uninhabitable for other environmental reasons, 
such as flooding, are effectively not subject to otherwise applicable 
requirements for inspection and removal of asbestos prior to demolition 
through August 29, 2008, provided certain emission control practices 
are followed. These emission control practices include the wetting of 
materials from before demolition through disposal. According to LDEQ 
officials, the no action assurance has significantly helped the 
recovery effort by allowing demolition without the prior removal of 
regulated asbestos-containing materials, thereby reducing by 2 or 3 
days the time required to demolish homes. Under the no action assurance 
provisions, EPA and LDEQ are to conduct additional oversight 
activities, including continuing to observe demolitions to verify 
compliance with asbestos requirements and meeting regularly to discuss 
oversight activities and to identify and address any other concerns. 

EPA asbestos monitoring plan. In September 2007, EPA issued an 
additional asbestos monitoring plan to (1) evaluate the effectiveness 
of the demolition practices being employed in the New Orleans area, (2) 
assure the safety of existing and potential residents, (3) inform the 
public of the asbestos concentrations observed, and (4) explain the 
significance of the findings of the monitoring. This plan responds to 
our June 2007 recommendation that EPA develop and implement an expanded 
asbestos monitoring plan in the New Orleans area that addresses the 
potential health effects of the nonenforcement, under no action 
assurance letters, of certain asbestos requirements covering government-
ordered demolitions of residences. The asbestos monitoring plan calls 
for monitoring a minimum of 10 percent of the FEMA-funded demolitions 
of houses known to have, or assumed to have, regulated asbestos-
containing material.[Footnote 15] 

LDEQ guidance. LDEQ issued a Comprehensive Plan for Disaster Clean-Up 
and Debris Management in July 2006, building on its September 2005 
Hurricane Katrina Debris Management Plan. This plan addresses the 
determination of appropriate sites for staging, transferring, and 
disposing of debris and the management of different types of debris, 
among other topics. 

EPA guidance. As we had recommended in June 2007, EPA's Office of Solid 
Waste and Emergency Response updated and significantly expanded its 
1995 disaster debris guidance in March 2008. The new guidance, Planning 
for Natural Disaster Debris, discusses debris management from natural 
disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods and is 
intended for use in developing or revising disaster debris management 
plans. The guide addresses issues such as identifying the types of 
debris and forecasting the amounts of debris that could occur from a 
natural disaster; creating an inventory of current capacity for 
managing the debris; preselecting temporary debris management sites 
that can be used for storing, sorting, and processing debris; and 
creating a debris removal strategy that recognizes that disaster debris 
that may pose an immediate threat to human health and the environment 
should be a first collection priority. The guide states that 
environmental assessment monitoring may be needed before, during, and 
after a disaster if disaster debris is placed in previously closed 
debris management facilities or if new facilities are opened. It 
further notes that attempting to conduct an assessment after a disaster 
can limit the assessment, delay debris management, and increase citizen 
anxiety. The new guidance responds to our June 2007 recommendation to 
EPA to provide more detailed guidance to state and local entities on 
managing debris disposal following disasters to better ensure 
protection of public health and the environment and prevent the 
creation of future Superfund sites.[Footnote 16] 

Oversight Practices: 

Observations at landfills. Following the hurricane, LDEQ, with EPA 
assistance, has increased its surveillance of debris disposal at 
landfills and other debris sites in the New Orleans area.[Footnote 17] 
Observations at landfills receiving large quantities of hurricane 
debris increased from weekly from late October 2005 through mid- 
February 2006, to twice weekly from mid-February 2006 to mid-May 2006, 
to daily in May 2006. EPA contractors began conducting daily landfill 
observations for LDEQ in October 2006. 

* According to LDEQ, LDEQ or EPA contractor staff generally conducted 
daily observations at Gentilly, Highway 90, Slidell, and Tidewater 
Sanitary C&D landfills since May 2006. EPA contractors conducted 
observations at the Paris Road site, a temporary debris staging and 
reduction area, twice a week since July 2007. EPA or LDEQ staff observe 
debris entering the landfills in trucks and debris being deposited at 
the landfill to ensure that inappropriate debris is not disposed at the 
site. 

* Observations are recorded in a standardized form that is reviewed by 
LDEQ, according to LDEQ officials. LDEQ staff also conduct regulatory 
inspections that entail a more thorough review of permit requirements 
and landfill records. 

* LDEQ officials told us that problems identified by LDEQ and EPA are 
frequently addressed immediately. For example, inappropriate debris 
identified in trucks is turned away at the landfill entrance, and 
inappropriate debris spotted being deposited at the landfill is 
immediately pulled out and segregated. LDEQ officials said that in one 
case, problems identified by EPA involving the improper handling of 
asbestos debris prompted a formal LDEQ inspection that resulted in an 
enforcement action. 

According to EPA and LDEQ, they have conducted 3,364 landfill 
observations at 13 landfill and debris storage or staging sites since 
October 2005.[Footnote 18] Table 1 provides an overview of EPA and LDEQ 
observations by landfill or debris site since October 2005. 

Table 1: Number of EPA and LDEQ Observations at Landfill or Debris 
Sites from October 2005 through May 2008: 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Chef Menteur C&D landfill[A]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 89. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Empire Pit C&D landfill[B]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 140. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Gentilly C&D landfill; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 699. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Highway 90 C&D landfill; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 755. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Industrial Pipe C&D landfill[C]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 125. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Jefferson Parish Type I-II landfill[D]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 38. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Killona C&D landfill[E]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 28. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: River Birch Type I-II landfill; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 136. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: St. Bernard temporary debris storage and reduction site #1 
(Paris Road Landfill); 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 232. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: St. Bernard temporary debris storage and reduction site #2 (Old 
Asphalt Plant)[F]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 54. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Slidell C&D landfill; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 616. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Stranco C&D landfill[G]; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 143. 

New Orleans area landfills and temporary debris storage or staging 
sites: Tidewater Sanitary / Coast Guard Road C&D landfill; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 309. 

Total; 
EPA and LDEQ observations: 3,364. 

Sources: EPA and LDEQ. 

[A] Landfill ceased accepting debris on August 14, 2006. 

[B] Landfill closed on October 15, 2007. 

[C] Landfill ceased accepting hurricane debris in December 2006. 

[D] Landfill was a white goods staging site; hurricane debris not 
disposed of at this landfill. 

[E] Landfill ceased accepting hurricane debris in December 2006. 

[F] Site closed on December 18, 2006. 

[G] Landfill closed on January 7, 2008. 

[End of table] 

Observations at demolition sites. EPA has also assisted LDEQ in 
observing home demolitions conducted under the scope of EPA's no action 
assurance letters by the Corps of Engineers or parishes for compliance 
with asbestos requirements. According to LDEQ, FEMA estimates that as 
of July 25, 2008, approximately 16,900 residences in Jefferson, 
Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany Parishes that are 
not subject to otherwise applicable requirements for inspection and 
removal of asbestos have been demolished with FEMA funding since 
February 2006.[Footnote 19] The pace of home demolitions, which are now 
managed by the individual parishes, continues to be slow. For example, 
as stated in our June 2007 report, LDEQ indicated that 12,000 residence 
demolitions funded by FEMA had been completed by February 2007. 
However, by July 2008, 17 months later, FEMA estimated that about 
another 5,000 of these home demolitions had been completed. According 
to LDEQ, FEMA also estimates that nearly 3 years after Hurricane 
Katrina, an estimated 6,100 homes remain to be demolished in the New 
Orleans area. 

* LDEQ and EPA have observed demolition activities at 8,706 residences 
since March 2006. LDEQ conducted 1,109 observations at such demolition 
sites from March 27, 2006, through October 20, 2006. EPA began 
assisting with this effort on October 21, 2006, conducting 7,597 
demolition observations through July 2008.[Footnote 20] EPA visits 
demolition sites and completes an LDEQ checklist on demolition 
activities that is forwarded to LDEQ for review. If concerns are 
identified, EPA representatives contact LDEQ, which sends a 
representative to the site to evaluate the concern and may request that 
EPA document the observations in an LDEQ form that could initiate the 
state enforcement action process. LDEQ officials also told us that EPA 
typically brings any potential problems to the attention of contractors 
as soon as the problem is observed. In addition to these demolition 
observations, EPA is also observing the removal of regulated asbestos- 
containing material in the form of floor tiles that were originally 
left on slabs during demolitions. EPA has conducted 828 floor tile 
demolition observations through July 2008. 

* According to EPA officials, the primary concerns identified when 
monitoring demolitions are contractors (1) not adequately wetting 
regulated asbestos-containing material, (2) using nonaccredited 
asbestos personnel, and (3) not adequately containing regulated 
asbestos material in secured or sealed wrapping. 

Monitoring asbestos emissions at demolition sites. In response to our 
June 2007 recommendation regarding developing and implementing an 
expanded asbestos monitoring plan in the New Orleans area that would 
provide monitoring at demolition sites, EPA has monitored for asbestos 
emissions at 300 of the 1,253 demolitions conducted under EPA's no 
action assurance letters. These demolitions took place in the New 
Orleans area between August 6, 2007, and May 15, 2008, consistent with 
its September 2007 plan. EPA officials told us that 1 out of 1,170 
samples taken from over 300 demolition sites exceeded EPA's health- 
screening level for asbestos concentrations. However, LDEQ officials 
informed us this instance was caused by a misinterpretation of the 
sampling analysis results and none of the samples exceeded EPA's health-
screening levels. EPA confirmed that the one sample result in question 
was deemed inconclusive due to excessive particulate on the sample 
filter and stated that the sampling procedures have been adjusted to 
prevent the filter from becoming overloaded to obtain a more accurate 
sample of monitored demolition activity. EPA also stated that asbestos 
below the screening level has been detected in some samples. Although 
the asbestos monitoring plan states that monitoring can be discontinued 
after data from 100 demolitions have been evaluated if problems are not 
identified, EPA plans to continue sampling at demolition sites as part 
of its FEMA-funded response activities through August 29, 2008. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure II: Enforcement Actions Taken by State and Federal Agencies: 

Following are the enforcement actions state and federal agencies have 
taken related to Hurricane Katrina debris removal and disposal. 

LDEQ enforcement actions. According to LDEQ, as of May 15, 2008, the 
agency had issued 120 enforcement actions for Hurricane Katrina related 
violations.[Footnote 21] 

* Fifty-one were actions involving issues that cut across LDEQ's air, 
water, solid waste, or hazardous waste programs. For example, several 
of these actions involved automotive related sites such as auto salvage 
yards that LDEQ cited for improperly disposing of solid waste and 
failing to submit a notice of intent for storm water discharges. 

* Fifty-three were actions involving only solid waste, hazardous waste, 
or water. For example, several of these solid waste actions involved 
businesses and individuals who improperly disposed of C&D debris at 
unauthorized sites. 

* Nine were actions under the state's expedited penalties process. For 
example, four of these involved violations related to the disposal of 
car tires. 

* Seven were air-related actions that addressed regulated asbestos- 
containing material violations and included issues such as failing to 
adequately wet the asbestos and to dispose of the material as soon as 
practical after removal. 

Landfill enforcement actions. LDEQ's enforcement actions cited above 
also included actions against the following five landfills that 
received Katrina C&D debris. 

* Empire Pit Landfill: LDEQ issued a compliance order enforcement 
action on November 8, 2006, against this landfill, which was granted 
temporary authorization to receive Katrina C&D debris in a state 
emergency order. The violations noted in the action included failing to 
(1) keep records documenting the removal and disposal of unauthorized 
waste, (2) cover wastes with 12 inches of soil every 14 days, and (3) 
provide containers for segregating unauthorized waste. LDEQ's March 
2007 emergency order no longer authorized disposal of C&D debris at 
this landfill, and the site was closed on October 15, 2007. Prior to 
its closure, LDEQ conducted inspections at the temporary landfill on 
May 30, 2007, and July 19, 2007, to ensure that the site was being 
closed in accordance with the state's debris management plan. Based on 
LDEQ's evaluation during these visits and a review of the engineering 
certification documentation, the state determined necessary closure 
requirements had been met. 

* Gentilly Landfill: LDEQ issued a compliance order enforcement action 
against this landfill on January 31, 2007, for several violations at 
the site. These violations included failing to (1) deposit and compact 
waste and cover the waste, (2) install surface run-off devices at 
entrance and exit ramps of the disposal area, and (3) meet effluent 
limitations. After the enforcement action, monitoring and compliance at 
the landfill were determined in several ways, such as (1) daily 
landfill assessments conducted by EPA (which did not result in any 
subsequent enforcement referrals), (2) monthly submissions to LDEQ of 
the landfill's required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 
Discharge Monitoring Report (some of which indicated exeedances that 
are being addressed by LDEQ's enforcement division), and (3) compliance 
information provided by the landfill as required under the action. An 
inspection conducted by LDEQ on December 17, 2007, found that all solid 
waste issues identified in the enforcement action had been resolved. 

* Industrial Pipe Inc. Landfill: LDEQ issued a compliance order and 
notice of potential penalty enforcement action against this landfill on 
July 24, 2007, for several violations. The violations included (1) 
depositing waste in the landfill without checking for unacceptable 
waste items, (2) allowing the disposal of unacceptable waste (tires, 
bags of municipal solid waste, medical waste, vehicle windshields, and 
hydraulic hoses), and (3) failing to place appropriate cover over 
waste. After the enforcement action, monitoring and compliance at the 
landfill were determined in several ways, such as (1) periodic landfill 
assessments conducted by LDEQ (which did not result in other 
enforcement actions), (2) monthly submissions to LDEQ of the landfill's 
required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Discharge 
Monitoring Report (which indicated no discharges), and (3) compliance 
information provided by the landfill as required under the action. LDEQ 
inspected the landfill on February 13, 2008, and noted no areas of 
concern.[Footnote 22] LDEQ has not issued a penalty to date regarding 
the violations from the July 2007 inspection. 

* Slidell Landfill: LDEQ issued a consolidated compliance order and 
notice of potential penalty enforcement action against this landfill on 
February 28, 2007, for several violations. The violations included (1) 
accepting unauthorized waste such as residential waste and unopened 
black garbage bags (that were not inspected prior to being deposited in 
the landfill), (2) failing to minimize blowing paper and litter with 
cover material, (3) allowing the disposal of unacceptable wastes such 
as liquid paint, creosote telephone poles, railroad ties, and garage 
doors, (4) causing or allowing the unauthorized discharge of 
potentially contaminated stormwater at a location not specified in the 
landfill's permit, and (5) effluent excursions in violation of the 
permit. After the action, monitoring and compliance at the landfill 
were determined in several ways, such as (1) daily landfill assessments 
conducted by EPA (which did not result in any subsequent enforcement 
referrals), (2) monthly submissions to LDEQ of the landfill's required 
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Discharge Monitoring 
Report (which showed exceedances in March and April 2007 but not in the 
following months), and (3) compliance information such as weekly 
preventative maintenance forms provided by the landfill as required 
under the action. An LDEQ compliance evaluation inspection was 
conducted on October 26, 2007, and no violations were identified. LDEQ 
is currently in settlement negotiations with the landfill regarding the 
February 2007 violations, and no penalty has been issued to date. 

* Stranco Landfill: LDEQ issued a compliance order enforcement action 
on December 14, 2006, against the landfill, which was granted temporary 
authorization to receive Katrina C&D debris in a state emergency order. 
The violations noted in the action included failing to (1) provide 
adequate supervision and security of the site to control the disposal 
of materials, (2) completely extinguish fires from debris burned at the 
landfill (smoke was observed smoldering from the waste at the site), 
(3) document the source of waste received at the site, and (4) cover 
waste with 12 inches of soil every 14 days. Subsequent LDEQ inspections 
found continued violations.[Footnote 23] Specifically, the violations 
were failing to cover wastes with 12 inches of soil every 14 days and 
not removing unauthorized waste from the site every 7 days, as 
required. Because of these continuing issues, on April 9, 2007, LDEQ 
issued a consolidated compliance order and notice of potential penalty 
enforcement action against the landfill. The landfill operator's April 
2007 response to LDEQ explained why the deficiencies had occurred and 
how they would be corrected. In October 2007, LDEQ conducted an 
inspection to ensure that the landfill, which had been undergoing 
closure activities, was being properly closed. This landfill was closed 
in January 2008. 

Interagency enforcement efforts. Other enforcement actions have been 
taken in conjunction with an interagency state and federal enforcement 
operation. 

* LDEQ worked with EPA, the Corps of Engineers, and the Louisiana 
National Guard in March and April 2007 in a joint effort called 
Operation Cleansweep to combat the illegal dumping activities and the 
presence of unpermitted facilities operating along an area in eastern 
New Orleans referred to as the Almonaster Corridor.[Footnote 24] 
According to LDEQ, illegal dumping along the corridor had been a 
problem for many years prior to Katrina, but the amount of debris from 
the hurricane exacerbated the problem greatly. With FEMA funding, EPA 
acquired and loaned LDEQ surveillance cameras, which were installed at 
various illegal dumping hot spots along the Almonaster Corridor. These 
investigations revealed that the illegal dumping rate was increasing 
and the material being dumped was consistent with hurricane-related 
debris, such as building components, furnishings, white goods, 
electronics, and vegetative waste. As a result, these agencies joined 
with the Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana National Guard to perform 
door-to-door inspections of all properties and facilities along this 
roughly 5-mile by 1-mile area. Overall, the agencies inspected 178 
sites and referred 147 to LDEQ's enforcement division. The violations 
identified from these efforts included, but were not limited to, the 
unauthorized disposal of solid waste, transporting solid waste to an 
unauthorized location, and open burning of debris. LDEQ expects to 
complete an overall summary of these efforts by the end of the summer 
of 2008. 

* As part of Operation Cleansweep, Corps of Engineers and EPA staff 
inspected 20 potential wetland sites in the Almonaster Corridor to 
determine if Katrina-related disaster debris had been dumped there 
illegally and to identify any wetlands violations. Specifically, 
section 404 of the Clean Water Act generally prohibits discharges of 
dredged or fill material into waters of the United States without first 
obtaining a permit from the Corps of Engineers. According to EPA, the 
Corps of Engineers issued cease and desist orders to owners of five 
sites that were in violation of section 404. According to EPA, the 
Corps of Engineers reported that the illegal dumping was no longer 
occurring at the five sites and one owner had begun site cleanup. EPA 
officials also said that the Corps of Engineers is the lead agency in 
wetlands violation cases as long as the property owner is cooperative, 
which was the situation in these five cases. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure III: Actions by LDEQ and EPA in Response to Potential 
Environmental Issues at the Gentilly Landfill: 

The Gentilly C&D Landfill was constructed on top of a former municipal 
waste landfill that operated from the early 1960s until the mid- 
1980s.[Footnote 25] LDEQ's authorization of the use of this C&D 
landfill located near hurricane-devastated areas in New Orleans has 
been controversial because of the potential for long-term, negative 
environmental impacts.[Footnote 26] For example, in October 2005, the 
Louisiana Environmental Action Network filed suit against LDEQ, 
challenging the decision to authorize the use of the Gentilly Landfill 
for hurricane-related debris disposal.[Footnote 27] Also, as we 
reported in 2007, studies conducted by an environmental engineering 
firm and Louisiana State University raised concerns about debris 
disposal at the Gentilly Landfill. These studies suggest that debris 
disposal in landfills without appropriate safeguards could result in 
the migration of contaminants, potentially causing pollution and 
affecting public health and the environment.[Footnote 28] The studies 
identified concerns about the potential discharge of leachate (water 
that has come into contact with waste) into groundwater and surface 
water from the Gentilly Landfill.[Footnote 29] In addition, a February 
2006 draft report contracted by FEMA raised these and other 
environmental issues. The Gentilly Landfill is also one of four 
landfills currently authorized by a Louisiana emergency order to 
receive C&D debris under a broadened definition that includes some 
potentially hazardous materials, including furniture, carpeting, 
painted or stained lumber from demolished buildings, and "incidental 
asbestos-contaminated waste that cannot be extracted from the 
demolition debris." As discussed in our prior report on Hurricane 
Katrina, a draft 1995 report prepared for EPA (and cited by the agency 
in its review of LDEQ's expanded C&D definition) identifies a number of 
the debris components being allowed at C&D landfills under the 
emergency order--including furniture and wood paints and stains--as 
"problematic," even though these materials are not necessarily 
classified as hazardous wastes under RCRA.[Footnote 30] Moreover, 
studies by a Louisiana State University research institute and an 
environmental engineering firm state that these categories of waste can 
introduce hazardous materials into landfills, increasing the likelihood 
of pollution. For example, wood treated with chromated copper arsenate 
as a preservative can leach arsenic, which can cause problems with 
circulatory systems and may increase cancer risk if ingested. Chromated 
copper arsenate is often used to prevent termite infestation in areas 
where termites are prevalent, such as New Orleans. Lumber with lead 
paint also poses health hazards. Lead poisoning in children can cause 
learning disabilities, impaired hearing, and behavioral problems, and 
in pregnant women, it can result in adverse developmental effects in 
fetuses. Even before Hurricane Katrina struck, concentrations of lead 
as much as 10 times EPA's screening level were detected in soil samples 
taken in New Orleans. In addition, some household furniture is treated 
with fire retardants containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers, 
carcinogens that have been found as environmental pollutants 
accumulating in human breast milk and wildlife. 

In authorizing the use of the Gentilly Landfill under the Hurricane 
Katrina emergency order, LDEQ stated that it had considered alternative 
sites and determined that the Gentilly site met state solid waste 
requirements and was located near the bulk of the hurricane-generated 
C&D debris. LDEQ further noted that diverting debris disposal to the 
alternate landfills would increase waste-hauling time and expense and 
exacerbate traffic problems, thereby hindering New Orleans's recovery. 
Although EPA did not have a formal role in LDEQ's decision to authorize 
the Gentilly Landfill, the agency has conducted oversight activities at 
this and other landfills and provided technical support to LDEQ and 
FEMA. For example, FEMA requested EPA to provide a technical analysis 
and recommendation for the concurrent and continued use of the Gentilly 
Landfill because of potential Superfund liability of the federal 
agencies engaged in hurricane response for future cleanup of the 
landfill. In response, EPA's review of the Gentilly site following its 
authorization to receive Hurricane Katrina debris concluded that 
current use of the landfill appeared to be consistent with the types 
and volumes of wastes for which it was designed and permitted by the 
state but noted that there is no way "to protect against future 
Superfund liability absolutely, particularly for a landfill, whether 
historic or modern, municipal or private."[Footnote 31] 

To further assess concerns about disposing of hurricane-generated C&D 
debris at the Gentilly Landfill, FEMA contracted with a consulting 
firm, the National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance 
Consultants, to perform a study. According to a February 15, 2006, 
letter from FEMA to EPA, the purpose of the study was to assist FEMA in 
making decisions regarding the management of the debris stream 
generated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A February 2006 draft report 
from this study listed concerns related to the landfill's subsurface 
soils and groundwater and possible impacts on the environment from 
placing new wastes over the old landfill[Footnote 32]. 

Specifically, the draft report recommended the following:[Footnote 33] 

* additional geotechnical and hydrogeologic analysis; 

* the installation of a groundwater monitoring system, a groundwater 
sampling and analysis plan, and a detection monitoring program; 

* an evaluation of the leachate generation potential from both the old 
and new landfill; 

* an evaluation of the new C&D landfill's waste disposal plan, 
including a revised analysis of the "worst-case" impacts of the 
settling of the C&D landfill to evaluate the integrity of the clay cap 
covering the old landfill; 

* running slope stability analyses for the C&D landfill; 

* running preliminary calculations to estimate the quantity of "waters 
of consolidation" produced and released under the old landfill's cap 
during C&D debris disposal operations; 

* installing and monitoring a landfill gas monitoring system, running 
landfill gas generation calculations, and collecting and analyzing 
landfill gas samples for volatile gas compounds; and: 

* conducting a levee evaluation to estimate whether the adjacent Gulf 
Intracoastal Waterway Levee is protective of the facility against a 100-
year flood. 

Although LDEQ and EPA officials told us they had a some concerns about 
the quality of the draft report and they disagreed with some of the 
recommendations, LDEQ said that steps it took to settle the lawsuit 
filed by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network also addressed many 
of the draft report's recommendations. Specifically, on February 24, 
2006, officials from FEMA, LDEQ, EPA, the Corps of Engineers, and 
National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants met to 
discuss the concerns that had been raised regarding the Gentilly 
Landfill. At this meeting, the officials agreed on a course of action 
to address these concerns that focused on four operating parameters at 
the landfill: (1) maximum daily debris load, (2) the placement and 
sequencing of waste, (3) geotechnical monitoring, and (4) groundwater 
monitoring. 

After completing additional analyses and plans, on August 28, 2006, 
LDEQ issued an administrative order to the city of New Orleans (the 
owner of the landfill) and a related "Decision for Utilization of 
Gentilly Landfill 'Type III' for the Disposal of Hurricane Generated 
Debris" (or decision document) supporting the use of Gentilly for 
receiving hurricane debris. The administrative order and decision 
document called for the installation of 10 inclinometers,[Footnote 34] 
11 groundwater monitoring wells, and 3 surface water sampling ports, 
according to specifications outlined in a geotechnical investigation 
and slope stability analyses, groundwater monitoring plan, and surface 
water monitoring plan provided as attachments to the decision document. 
LDEQ officials told us that although the administrative order and 
decision document resulted from an agreement with the Louisiana 
Environmental Action Network to settle its lawsuit regarding the 
Gentilly Landfill,[Footnote 35] the steps outlined in the order 
generally responded to the recommendations in the draft report by the 
National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants. 

The first operating parameter agreed upon by LDEQ, EPA, and others 
addressed maximum daily debris load. The August 2006 administrative 
order specified that daily intake shall not exceed 50,000 cubic yards 
and called for limiting the weekly intake of uncompacted C&D waste to 
210,000 cubic yards initially and gradually increasing the weekly 
intake to 280,000 cubic yards, provided inclinometer and visual 
readings confirm the landfill stability. LDEQ relied on slope stability 
analyses to arrive at this landfill parameter. According to LDEQ, an 
initial slope stability analysis was conducted for Gentilly as part of 
the landfill permitting process and is a regular component of the 
permitting application. An additional slope stability investigation, 
included as an attachment to the administrative order, was undertaken 
for LDEQ in July 2006 by a third party firm and entailed additional 
soil borings and laboratory analysis to determine the engineering and 
physical properties of the subsurface soils. LDEQ officials told us 
that daily debris intake was limited because LDEQ determined that 
50,000 cubic yards per day is the maximum amount of debris that a C&D 
landfill can safely manage and because analysis showed that accepting 
this amount of debris each day would allow the underlying soil to get 
stronger, or gain "shear strength," and support the weight of the 
landfill without failing or becoming unstable. LDEQ officials told us 
the Gentilly Landfill is currently receiving about 6,000 to 7,000 cubic 
yards of debris each day. The officials said that although the 
additional slope stability analysis was conducted as part of the 
previously discussed lawsuit settlement, it also addressed the draft 
National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants' 
recommendation that a slope stability analyses be performed for the 
landfill. 

The second operating parameter addressed the placement and sequencing 
of waste. Under the August 2006 administrative order, debris is dumped 
in a given disposal area until it reaches an elevation of no more than 
25 feet; then the next debris disposal area is opened. This process is 
repeated from one end of the landfill to the other, then back again. 
LDEQ officials explained that this sequencing of waste is done at 
landfills to make sure the soft soil under the waste does not fail and 
create a problem with landfill stability. Slope stability analysis 
conducted as part of the landfill permitting process and additional 
analyses conducted in July 2006 also informed LDEQ's decision on the 
elevation of waste placed in the landfill. According to LDEQ officials, 
the process of disposing of waste is managed by landfill engineers, who 
monitor elevations and determine when to move on to a new area. The 
officials said if any stability concerns were identified by the 
inclinometers installed at the site, LDEQ would take remedial action to 
relieve the pressure by removing waste. So far, LDEQ has not had to 
take remedial action, and the officials told us such action was 
unlikely given the rate of debris disposal at the site. LDEQ officials 
told us the actions taken under this operating parameter address the 
draft National Infrastructure Support Technical Assistance Consultants' 
recommendation to evaluate the landfill's waste disposal plan. 

The third operating parameter addressed monitoring the integrity of the 
landfill (geotechnical monitoring). In this regard, the administrative 
order called for the installation of inclinometers along the southern 
slope of the landfill based on the inclinometer installation and 
monitoring plan that was developed for Gentilly and included as part of 
the order. According to LDEQ officials, all 10 of the inclinometers 
that the plan required were installed along the southern boundary of 
the landfill, in accordance with plan specifications. The officials 
also informed us that, based on quarterly landfill inclinometer 
reports, there has been no significant movement in Gentilly's slope, 
though the inclinometers were sensitive enough to pick up movement from 
construction of an access road near the landfill. Officials said that 
Gentilly is the only landfill out of about 50 in Louisiana that has 
inclinometers and that this requirement--which goes beyond state and 
federal regulations--was implemented in an effort to help settle the 
previously mentioned lawsuit. Additionally, LDEQ officials said that 
the inclinometers also addressed the draft National Infrastructure 
Support Technical Assistance Consultants' recommendation that 
additional geotechnical analysis was needed for the landfill. 

And finally, the administrative order addressed the fourth operating 
parameter--groundwater monitoring--by requiring the landfill to 
implement the groundwater monitoring plan that was included with the 
order. Among other things, the plan called for the installation of 11 
groundwater wells around the landfill's perimeter and the installation 
of 3 shallow surface water sampling ports. According to LDEQ officials, 
all of the groundwater wells and surface water ports were installed and 
met the plan specifications. LDEQ is testing groundwater for 62 
chemicals, including arsenic, benzene, and lead; and surface water for 
9 chemicals. The officials said the quarterly landfill sampling results 
obtained to date have been within normal ranges, with the exception of 
seven metals in groundwater samples and one metal in surface water 
samples.[Footnote 36] According to LDEQ, additional testing showed that 
metals were not present or detected at lower levels when soil sediment 
was filtered out of the water. As such, LDEQ officials attribute the 
metal levels to the surrounding soil sediment, which naturally contains 
metals such as lead at levels of around 15 to 20 parts per million, and 
stated they would continue to analyze all of the landfill's groundwater 
and surface water sampling results to develop baseline data for future 
use. The officials said that although the groundwater and surface water 
monitoring conducted at the landfill was done to satisfy the lawsuit 
settlement, it also addressed the draft National Infrastructure Support 
Technical Assistance Consultants' recommendations regarding the 
installation of a groundwater monitoring system, a groundwater sampling 
and analysis plan, and a detection monitoring program. 

LDEQ officials told us that several of the February 2006 draft report 
recommendations had been previously addressed during the Gentilly 
Landfill's permitting application process and also said they disagreed 
with several of the recommendations. For example, LDEQ officials said 
the agency disagreed with, and has not taken action to respond to, the 
draft report's recommendations regarding landfill gas monitoring. LDEQ 
officials cited three reasons for disagreeing with the draft report's 
recommendations on landfill gas monitoring: (1) LDEQ generally does not 
require landfill gas monitoring at C&D landfills; (2) gas is a product 
of decomposition, and LDEQ's evaluations showed that the underlying 
municipal waste was already decomposed; and (3) gas monitors are 
typically installed if gas could be a health hazard or explosion 
hazard, or if there is a concern about lateral gas movement underground 
affecting neighboring populations. However, there are no residential 
communities near the Gentilly Landfill. Further, LDEQ officials said 
that the gas monitoring equipment worn by landfill workers, as required 
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, detected no 
emissions above Occupational Safety and Health Administration limits. 

According to EPA, agency staff participated in meetings with LDEQ to 
discuss the groundwater monitoring locations, screening depths, 
intervals, constituents, and data analysis; funded some of the 
geotechnical testing used in the slope stability analyses; and 
discussed the analyses with LDEQ in relation to the maximum daily 
debris load and debris sequencing parameters. In September 2006, EPA 
reported to FEMA that it had reviewed LDEQ's administrative order, 
decision document, and attached plans and concurred with the findings 
and the approach taken on each of the four operating parameters for the 
landfill. EPA officials said the agency has not had a direct role in 
overseeing the implementation of the state administrative order. 
However, the officials noted that EPA contractors continue to conduct 
landfill observations at Gentilly and other landfills receiving the 
greatest concentrations of hurricane debris. 

Our June 2007 report underscored that EPA's guidance to states and 
localities on planning for disposal of disaster debris is important in 
helping ensure that hazardous materials are disposed of in landfills 
with appropriate safeguards when disposal options that would not 
otherwise be acceptable are used for disaster debris, thereby 
preventing contaminants from migrating and causing air, water, and soil 
contamination.[Footnote 37] Such guidance could help states and 
localities consider the potential environmental impacts of debris 
management accommodations that may be made in emergency situations if 
affected areas are to be cleared of debris without causing adverse 
public health effects in the future. 

One potential example of a prior problem with hurricane debris is the 
Agriculture Street Superfund site in New Orleans, which was a municipal 
landfill from about 1909 until the late 1950s. During this period, oil 
was used to burn the refuse at the dump, and during the 1940s and 1950s 
the area was routinely sprayed with DDT.[Footnote 38] The landfill was 
reopened after Hurricane Betsy in 1965 to receive debris from destroyed 
buildings and ash from municipal incinerators. In the 1970s and 
continuing into the late 1980s, portions of the site were developed 
with private and public housing units, an elementary school, and a 
community center. Following health concerns among residents in the 
area, EPA initiated investigations at the site in 1986, ultimately 
identifying elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and carcinogenic 
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons--the primary contaminants of concern 
identified in sediment tests following Hurricane Katrina. Analyses of 
the health effects of these contaminants found at the Agriculture 
Street Landfill led EPA to place the site on the Superfund National 
Priorities List in 1994. Cleanup of the site, which primarily entailed 
soil excavation, placement of clean cover and soil, and resodding, was 
completed in 2001. As part of litigation involving EPA efforts to 
recover its cleanup costs at the site, some private parties have argued 
that the debris disposed of at the Agriculture Street Landfill in the 
wake of Hurricane Betsy contained hazardous substances that contributed 
to the contamination at the site.[Footnote 39] EPA officials told us 
that after years of case development research and discovery the agency 
has no evidence that hazardous substances were disposed of at the 
Agriculture Street Landfill during the Hurricane Betsy response. The 
parties recently settled the case in August 2008. Under the terms of 
the consent decree, which recognized the city's difficult financial 
circumstances, the city will pay no money but will perform certain in- 
kind services, provide site access to EPA, and assist in the placement 
of institutional controls. 

We recommended in June 2007 that EPA provide more detailed guidance to 
state and local entities on managing debris disposal following 
disasters to better ensure protection of public health and the 
environment and prevent the creation of future Superfund sites. We 
noted that such guidance might have helped Louisiana avoid some of the 
controversies and lawsuits it faced as a result of its emergency debris 
management decisions in New Orleans. As discussed in enclosure I, EPA 
did update its 1995 guidance on managing disaster debris disposal in 
March 2008. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure IV: Other Hurricane Katrina Debris-Related Areas of Interest: 

Following is a discussion of the status of the Chef Menteur Landfill in 
New Orleans, an EPA disaster debris-reduction pilot project in St. 
Bernard Parish, and a debris provision in the Water Resources 
Development Act. 

Status of the Chef Menteur Landfill. Another landfill that generated 
controversy when LDEQ approved its use as a C&D landfill under 
emergency authority in April 2006 is the Chef Menteur Landfill, located 
near a minority residential community and a national wildlife refuge. 
An environmental study identified concerns about the potential 
discharge of leachate (water that has come into contact with waste) 
into the wetlands surrounding the Chef Menteur Landfill. Although the 
landfill was closed in August 2006, LDEQ subsequently received numerous 
citizen complaints regarding odors from the site. According to LDEQ, 
because of the concerns raised, the agency undertook a comprehensive 
sampling of air, water, and soil cover at the landfill in November 
2007. Air samples were collected both at the landfill and a nearby 
community center, and the results indicated no exceedances of either 
state or federal regulations. Water samples collected from an open 
excavation next to the landfill that contained runoff from the site did 
not detect any volatile organic compounds or metal samples. However, 
the results did show some constituents that exceeded the site's 
discharge limits.[Footnote 40] According to LDEQ, no water has been 
discharged from the landfill, including the open excavation site. 
However, they said that the owners of Chef Menteur would be required to 
provide some type of treatment for these constituents if they were 
discharged into the surrounding area. Final closure activity cannot 
commence at Chef Menteur until, among other things, the Corps of 
Engineers issues a permit required under the Clean Water Act. According 
to LDEQ, as of the end of May 2008, the Corps of Engineers had not 
provided a time frame for the issuance of the permit. There are several 
pending lawsuits that could affect the nature and timing of the 
landfill closure. 

Disaster debris reduction pilot in St. Bernard Parish. EPA conducted a 
disaster debris pilot project in St. Bernard Parish in June 2008 to 
evaluate methods for reducing large volumes of debris from Hurricane 
Katrina. The pilot studied the use of a thermal treatment process, 
known as an air curtain burner, as an option to expedite debris removal 
in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. Vegetative and 
C&D debris that does not contain regulated asbestos-containing material 
was used during the project, which was conducted at the Paris Road 
debris staging site in St. Bernard Parish. According to an EPA 
official, the site used for the pilot is a closed landfill in a remote 
part of the parish. 

This pilot was originally planned to test methods for disposing of 
regulated asbestos-containing material. The two planned methods to be 
evaluated involved (1) grinding asbestos-containing waste material from 
homes and (2) burning asbestos-containing waste material from homes in 
the air curtain burner. However, the asbestos pilot projects became 
controversial in part because of community concerns. EPA has 
acknowledged that an error in its risk estimate of the potential health 
effects of exposure to asbestos related to the pilot was a factor in 
the decision to exclude asbestos-containing material for the revised 
pilot. The new pilot was limited to the burning of vegetative and C&D 
debris and was redesigned to specifically exclude regulated asbestos- 
containing material. 

Water Resources Development Act debris provision. A provision of the 
Water Resources Development Act of 2007 prohibits federal funding of 
the disposal of waste that does not meet federal C&D debris guidelines 
in Louisiana C&D landfills.[Footnote 41] However, federal regulations 
do not specifically define C&D debris, instead stating that a C&D 
landfill "typically receives any one or more of the following types of 
solid wastes: roadwork material, excavated material, demolition waste, 
construction/renovation waste, and site clearance waste."[Footnote 42] 
While the Louisiana definition is more stringent than federal 
guidelines, under the emergency order still in effect in five parishes, 
the debris that C&D landfills can receive includes some potentially 
hazardous materials that normally would not be allowed in unlined C&D 
landfills under Louisiana's regulations.[Footnote 43] In August 2006, 
EPA Region 6 reviewed LDEQ's C&D debris definition under the emergency 
order and determined that the types of waste "seem consistent with what 
EPA identifies as material typically sent to a C&D landfill." While 
LDEQ officials acknowledged that the provision has therefore not 
impacted debris disposal operations, EPA and LDEQ officials emphasized 
that C&D disposal practices in Louisiana have complied with the 
provisions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. 

Enclosure V: Comments from the Environmental Protection Agency: 

Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the 
end of this enclosure. 

United States Environmental Protection Agency: 
Region 6: 
1445 Ross Avenue, Suite 1200: 
Dallas, TX 75202-2733: 
Internet Address (URL) - [hyperlink, http:www.epa.gov/earthlr6/]: 

August 15, 2008: 

Ms. Christine Fishkin: 
Assistant Director, Natural Resources and Environment: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W.: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Fishkin: 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the "Draft Report on GAO's 
Review of Hurricane Katrina Debris Removal and Disposal Issues." EPA 
and GAO have developed a productive working relationship through this 
and previous Hurricane Katrina and Rita reviews. We are proud of our 
contributions to this unprecedented natural disaster recovery and the 
progress we have made in our preparedness and response operations in 
light of our experience with Hurricane Katrina. Some of these changes 
in response operations address comments made by GAO in 2007. GAO 
recognized and mentioned these improvements in this draft report. A 
separate response from EPA Headquarters will address GAO's previous 
recommendations. 

In regards to this recent Draft GAO report, EPA generally agrees with 
the information contained in the document. However, we have some 
recommended additions and revisions. These recommendations are 
summarized below: 

1. EPA recommends that GAO eliminate the statements on pages 6, 8, 10, 
13, 28 and 39 where the report mentions that the State of Louisiana's 
emergency order broadens the State's definition of construction and 
demolition debris (C&D) and allows for some "potentially hazardous 
materials" to be disposed of in C&D landfills rather than in landfills 
with liners approved for such waste. These misleading statements guide 
the reader to infer that the C&D definition under the Louisiana 
emergency order is inconsistent with federal requirements. However, as 
mentioned in the report on page 39, EPA reviewed the definition under 
the emergency order and determined that the types of waste seem 
consistent with what EPA identifies as material typically sent to a C&D 
landfill. Furthermore, the use of the term "potentially hazardous 
material" is also misleading. For example, EPA is unaware of any 
document that describes furniture and/or carpet as a "hazardous 
material." Therefore, EPA recommends that these statements be 
eliminated from the report. 

2. A discussion of oversight practices begins on page 17 of the GAO 
report. In this section there are discussions on Landfill Observations, 
Demolition Observations and asbestos monitoring at demolition sites. 
Since this is a report concerning debris activities, the following 
language should be added at the beginning of this section. 

EPA provided assistance to the State of Louisiana via FEMA tasking. 
These assistance activities resulted in the establishment of several 
mechanisms to help ensure the proper sorting of debris prior to 
disposal. Below is a summary of these mechanisms:

* Education through the distribution of flyers that identified the 
proper categories of segregation. 

* Additional curbside segregation during collection activities. These 
efforts were closely coordinated with the appropriate Emergency Support 
Function (ESF) 3 party responsible for general debris (i.e., USAGE or 
local governments). 

* EPA and USAGE oversight of curbside collection activities conducted 
by response contractors. 

* Landfills also posted signs identifying the type of waste that the 
landfill could accept. 

* Inspection towers were in place to inspect loads of debris prior to 
their entrance into the landfill. 

* Landfill operators also had landfill spotters that worked the 
landfill and watched the loads as they were being placed in the 
landfill. 

* The landfill machine operators also reviewed the material as it was 
being pushed into the landfill. 

* The landfill operators maintained logs of rejected loads and kept a 
roll-off container to place unauthorized waste that was found through 
these precautions at the landfill. This waste was then disposed of at a 
proper facility off-site. 

* LDEQ and EPA performed landfill observations which are discussed in 
more detail below. 

See comment 2. 

3. The discussion in the report on pages 35 and 36 regarding the 
Agriculture Street Landfill omits significant details, contains 
inaccuracies and suggests inferences unwarranted by the underlying 
facts. Specifically, the report's attempt to correlate the conditions 
associated with the Agriculture Street Landfill and the activities at 
current C&D landfills is not supported by facts. EPA conducted an 
extensive investigation into the material placed in the Agriculture 
Street Landfill and could not conclude that the 1965 Hurricane Betsy 
C&D debris contributed to the hazardous substances found in the 
landfill. Therefore, it is inaccurate to describe the Agriculture 
Street Landfill as an example of a prior problem with hurricane debris.

See comment 3. 

In addition, the paragraph as written invites the reader to infer that 
the Hurricane Katrina generated sediment contained potentially 
dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, and PAHs, but the inference is not 
supported by EPA's specific findings concerning Hurricane Katrina 
sediment. EPA did not detect lead, arsenic, and PAHs in Hurricane 
Katrina sediment above health-based levels. Due to these inaccuracies, 
this paragraph should be removed from the report. 

See comment 3. 

Should you need additional information or clarifications related to our 
comments, please contact Sam Coleman, Director, Superfund Division at 
214-665-6701. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Richard E. Greene: 
Regional Administrator: 

Enclosure: 

GAO Comments: 

1. We disagree with EPA's comment that our report "guides the reader to 
infer" that Louisiana's C&D definition is inconsistent with federal 
requirements. In fact, as EPA points out, we state in the draft report 
that EPA Region 6 reviewed LDEQ's C&D debris definition under the 
emergency order and determined that the types of waste "seem consistent 
with what EPA identifies as material typically sent to a C&D landfill." 
This statement is included in both the Overview section and the body of 
the draft and final reports. We also disagree with EPA's comment that 
the use of the term "potentially hazardous material" is misleading and 
are puzzled by its statement that the agency is not aware of any 
document that describes furniture and/or carpet as a hazardous 
material. For example, when EPA reviewed LDEQ's C&D debris definition 
under the emergency order, the agency referred to a 1995 report 
prepared for EPA entitled "Construction and Demolition Waste 
Landfills," which provided information about the variety of materials 
disposed of in C&D landfills. In this draft report, carpeting and 
furniture were listed as "problematic items," as were wood paints and 
stains, among other items. Furthermore, the report stated that many C&D 
wastes contain "inseparable hazardous constituents" and as examples 
cited "carpeting that can leach formaldehyde and treated or coated wood 
and wood products." Additionally, as we reported in our June 2007 
report on EPA's Hurricane Katrina activities, studies by a Louisiana 
State University research institute and an environmental engineering 
firm state that these categories of wastes can introduce hazardous 
materials into landfills, increasing the likelihood of pollution. For 
example, wood treated with chromated copper arsenate as a preservative 
can leach arsenic, which can cause problems with circulatory systems 
and may increase cancer risk if ingested. Chromated copper arsenate is 
often used to prevent termite infestation in areas where termites are 
prevalent, such as New Orleans. Lumber with lead paint also poses 
health hazards. Lead poisoning in children can cause learning 
disabilities, impaired hearing, and behavioral problems, and in 
pregnant women, it can result in adverse developmental effects to 
fetuses. Even before Hurricane Katrina struck, concentrations of lead 
as much as 10 times EPA's screening level were detected in soil samples 
taken in New Orleans. In addition, some household furniture is treated 
with fire retardants containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers, 
carcinogens that have been found as environmental pollutants 
accumulating in human breast milk and wildlife. In response to EPA's 
comment, we are adding this information from our prior report to the 
body of this report. 

2. As stated in our draft report, this review focuses on EPA's and 
LDEQ's 2007 and 2008 debris-related Hurricane Katrina response 
activities in the New Orleans area. Further, in the draft and final 
reports, we refer readers to our 2007 report that cover's EPA's Katrina 
response activities from August 2005 through June 2007, including EPA's 
actions as the coordinator of emergency support for the oil and 
hazardous materials response. We did not add the detailed text that EPA 
proposed about EPA's debris-related activities because it includes 
activities from the earlier years not addressed in the draft report. We 
did, however, add a footnote in the report section cited by EPA to 
remind readers that the prior report, Hurricane Katrina: EPA's Current 
and Future Environmental Protection Efforts Could be Enhanced by 
Addressing Issues and Challenges Faced on the Gulf Coast (GAO-07-651), 
also discusses EPA's debris-related activities. 

3. We continue to believe there are lessons that can be learned from 
the Agriculture Street Landfill, which was--like the Gentilly Landfill-
-reopened on top of a former municipal landfill after a hurricane. (The 
Agriculture Street Landfill was reopened after Hurricane Betsy hit New 
Orleans in 1965.) In both cases, the closed municipal landfills had 
operated prior to the enactment of the Resource Conservation and 
Recovery Act in 1976. In the draft report, we excerpted information 
about the Agriculture Street Landfill that we provided in our prior 
report on Hurricane Katrina (GAO-07-651). EPA stated that the draft 
report omits significant details and requested that the paragraph be 
removed from the report. Alternatively, to address EPA's concerns, we 
are including the entire discussion of this landfill that was included 
in the prior report. This text was reviewed by EPA prior to the 
issuance of our 2007 report and reflects changes we made in response to 
the agency's comments on this section at that time. We do not agree 
with EPA that the information contains inaccuracies and "suggests 
inferences unwarranted by the underlying facts." Finally, EPA stated 
that the paragraph in the draft report on the Agriculture Street 
Landfill "invites the reader to infer" that Hurricane Katrina generated 
sediment containing "potentially dangerous levels" of lead, arsenic, 
and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). We disagree. In our draft 
report, we state that these were the primary contaminants of concern 
identified in EPA's sediment tests following Hurricane Katrina. That 
these same contaminants were identified at elevated levels based on EPA-
initiated investigations at the Agriculture Street Landfill site in 
1986 is a matter of record. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure VI: Comments from the Louisiana Department of Environmental 
Quality: 

Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the 
end of this enclosure. 

State of Louisiana: 
Department Of Environmental Quality: 
Office Of The Secretary: 

Post Office Box 4301: 
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821-4301: 
Phone 225-119-3953: 
Fax 225-219-3971: 
[hyperlink, http://www.dcq.louisiana.gov]: 

Bobby Jindal: 
Governor: 

Harold Leggett, Ph.D.: 
Secretary: 

August 14, 2008: 

John B. Stephenson: 
Director. Natural Resources and Environment: 
General Accounting Office: 
441 G St. NW, Room 2075: 
Washington. DC 20548: 

Re: Draft Report of GAO's Review of Hurricane Katrina debris Removal & 
Disposal Dear Mr. Stephenson: 

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) has reviewed 
the draft report of GAO's review of LDEQ's Hurricane Katrina debris 
removal and disposal activities. LDEQ has the following comments in 
response to the report: 

Comment on Page 6, 13, and 29: The incidental mixture of "construction 
and demolition debris with asbestos- contaminated waste" should read 
asbestos containing waste. 

See comment 1. 

Regarding the "slow" pace of demolitions, first paragraph, Page 7: 
Categorizing the pace of demolitions as slow is an artifact of the time 
period selected and does not account for the types of demolitions being 
conducted and the obstacles which must he overcome to complete them. 

See comment 2. 

Although Hurricane Katrina occurred on August 29, 2005, demolitions did 
not begin until March 2006. Almost all of the early demolitions were 
voluntary i.e. the homeowner gave permission for the demolition. As a 
result about 12,000 residential demolitions had been completed by 
February 2007. 

However, the processing of houses that have to be condemned takes much 
longer. The public notice requirements alone extend the process for 
each demolition by 30 to 60 days. Also, FEMA required that the Parishes 
take over the management of the demolitions which required re-bidding 
contracts which resulted in a three to five month lull in demolitions 
until the new contractors were in place. 

As a result due to the transition in the management of the demolitions 
from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the parish only about 1,000 
demolitions were done from March 2007 till May 2008. However, over the 
past few months the demolition rate has increased and the total number 
of demolitions as of August 1, 2008, exceeds 16,000. 

Comment on Page 8 "one of four landfills currently authorized by 
emergency order to receive C&D debris under a broadened definition that 
includes some potentially hazardous materials:
It is important to note that the Gentilly landfill was permitted before 
the storms. The statement could be interpreted as LDEQ deliberately 
allowed the disposal of hazardous material at these landfills. In 
reality, the unprecedented multi layer waste inspections, waste 
segregations and recycling efforts in the field were testament to LDEQ 
and its partners' commitments to prevent hazardous materials being 
disposed at landfills. 

See comment 3. 

Comment on Page 9 regarding the installation of additional groundwater 
monitoring:
There are no regulatory requirements for groundwater monitoring for C&D 
landfills. 

See comment 4. 

Regarding the EPA's No Action Assurance (NAA) Letters and the impact to 
the Hurricane Katrina Response (Page 15): The EPA has promulgated Clean 
Air Act regulations, the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air 
Pollutants (NESHAP), which address the control of asbestos emissions. 
These regulations are mirrored by the Louisiana Emission Standards for 
Hazardous Air Pollutants (LESHAP). Both NESHAP and LESHAP allow for the 
demolition of houses that are structurally unsound and in imminent 
danger without the removal of asbestos prior to the demolition. 

See comment 5. 

The EPA's No Action Assurance (NAAs) letters allow certain other 
categories of houses that were seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina 
to be demolished under the same regulations provided that a strict 
protocol is followed. This protocol is designed to prevent air 
emissions from the demolition activity and the handling and disposal of 
the demolition debris. The effectiveness of the protocol has been 
verified by the results of air monitoring at thousands of demolition 
sites by both the contractors conducting the demolitions and the EPA 
through its perimeter air monitoring efforts. 

Although the regulatory flexibility provided by the NAAs is relatively 
minor, the impact to the recovery effort has been enormous. If the NAAs 
were not in effect, the Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials would 
have been required to be removed prior to the demolition. This means 
that a demolition which would require less than a day to complete under 
the NAA would instead take three to four days. 

FEMA estimates that, as of July 25, 2008, 16,910 houses have been 
demolished with 6,092 awaiting demolition. Without the NAA letters, 
these numbers would likely be reversed and the public would have been 
exposed to a potentially greater public health and safety hazard from 
almost 17,000 abandoned houses awaiting demolition. 

See comment 6. 

Comments on Observations at Demolition Sites, Page 20: LDEQ and EPA 
have observed demolition activities at more than 8,500 residences 
since.EPA began assisting with this effort on October 21, 2006, 
conducting more than 7,500 demolition observations through July 
2008.EPA has conducted more than 830 floor tile demolition observations 
through July 2008. 

Comments on Monitoring Asbestos Emissions at Demolition Sites: None of 
the samples taken at demolition sites have exceeded EPA's health 
screening level for asbestos concentrations. The one case where EPA 
thought that this had occurred was found to be due to a 
misinterpretation of the results of the sampling analysis. 

See comment 7. 

Comment on Page 36:
It is not a fair comparison of debris management undertaking after 
hurricane Betsy in 1965 and the LDEQ's response to hurricanes Katrina 
and Rita in 2005. To our knowledge, there were no environmental 
regulations in effect in 1965 to prevent Agriculture Street from 
becoming a superfund site. 

See comment 8. 

The LDEQ appreciates the opportunity to comment on the report. If you 
have any questions regarding these comments, please contact Lourdes 
Iturralde at 225-219-3712. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Vladimir Alex Appeaning, Ph.D: 
Deputy Secretary: 
c: Kirk Menard, Senior Analyst: 
GAO: 

GAO Comments: 

1. LDEQ requested that we replace the term "construction and demolition 
debris with asbestos-contaminated waste" with the term "asbestos 
containing waste." We did not make this change because, as indicated in 
the draft and final reports, we are quoting the language in LDEQ's 
Hurricane Katrina Emergency Orders, including the current order that is 
in effect until August 29, 2008. 

2. We agree that there are obstacles that must be overcome before a 
home can be demolished. And while we understand there was a lull in 
between when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ceased demolitions and 
the parishes took over the management of the demolitions, it is not 
unreasonable to believe that local governments should have anticipated 
taking over this responsibility at some point. We have updated our 
report with the revised FEMA demolition numbers provided by LDEQ but 
believe that the pace of demolitions continues to be slow. 

3. LDEQ commented that it is important to note that the Gentilly 
Landfill was permitted before the storms. Our draft and final reports 
state that LDEQ "issued a permit in December 2004 authorizing the 
Gentilly Landfill to receive and dispose of C&D debris and wood 
wastes." 

4. Regarding our statement about the "additional groundwater 
monitoring" at the Gentilly Landfill, LDEQ commented that there are no 
regulatory requirements for groundwater monitoring for C&D landfills. 
We used the word "additional" to reflect that the number of water 
monitors at Gentilly was increased. We do not believe that describing 
the use of such monitors at the landfill suggests that the monitors are 
required by regulation. 

5. LDEQ emphasized the importance of EPA's no action assurance letters 
in completing home demolitions. In response, we revised the report to 
include LDEQ's statement that the no action assurance letters 
significantly helped the recovery effort by allowing demolition without 
the prior removal of regulated asbestos-containing materials, reducing 
by 2 or 3 days the time required to demolish homes. We also updated our 
report with the revised demolition numbers provided. However, we note 
that LDEQ's letter also provided explanations for the slow place of 
demolitions that are independent of the regulatory flexibility provided 
by no action assurances--namely, the lengthy house condemnation process 
and the lull in demolitions that occurred after FEMA required the 
parishes, rather than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to manage the 
demolitions. We continue to believe that important factors should be 
carefully weighed in considering extensions beyond the 3-year 
anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2008--including the 
possible culmination of FEMA-funded EPA support in conducting oversight 
of landfill operations and demolitions in the New Orleans area. 

6. LDEQ provided updated information on LDEQ and EPA observations at 
demolition sites, and we have revised the report to reflect information 
from LDEQ and EPA. 

7. LDEQ provided a clarification about the asbestos samples taken at 
demolitions. We have revised our report with information from LDEQ and 
EPA. 

8. We continue to believe there are lessons that can be learned from 
the Agriculture Street Landfill, which was--like the Gentilly Landfill-
-reopened on top of a former municipal landfill after a hurricane. In 
1994, this landfill became the Agriculture Street Superfund Site. As 
previously discussed with LDEQ officials, our draft and final reports 
reflect the fact that the activities that occurred at the landfill 
(during the 1940s and 1950s) occurred before the enactment of federal 
regulations governing landfills. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] Congressional Research Service, Disaster Debris Removal After 
Hurricane Katrina: Status and Associated Issues, RL33477 (Apr. 2, 
2008). 

[2] While EPA may review approved state subtitle D permit programs and 
withdraw approval of state programs it determines do not meet the 
national minimum requirements, EPA officials told us the agency has 
never withdrawn approval of a state subtitle D permit program. 

[3] The Stafford Act authorizes FEMA and other federal agencies to 
clear debris and wreckage resulting from a major disaster from publicly 
and privately owned lands and waters, as well as authorizes grants to 
any state or local government for the purpose of removing debris. 42 
U.S.C.  5173(a). Action taken or assistance provided under this 
provision does not constitute a major federal action significantly 
affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. 42 U.S.C.  5159. 

[4] See GAO, Hurricane Katrina: EPA's Current and Future Environmental 
Protection Efforts Could Be Enhanced by Addressing Issues and 
Challenges Faced on the Gulf Coast, GAO-07-651 (Washington, D.C.: June 
25, 2007), which covers EPA's Katrina response activities from August 
2005 through June 2007 and included EPA's actions as the coordinator of 
emergency support for the oil and hazardous materials response. 

[5] State of Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Second 
Amended Declaration of Emergency and Administrative Order, Hurricane 
Katrina and its Aftermath, Appendix D, page 24 (Nov. 2, 2005). 

[6] The Corps of Engineers managed FEMA-funded demolitions in a number 
of parishes prior to ending its Katrina response activities in 
September 2007. The majority of home demolitions have occurred in 
Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes. Notably, St. Bernard Parish has 
managed building demolitions throughout the entire Hurricane Katrina 
response without the assistance of the Corps of Engineers. 

[7] LDEQ issued a permit in December 2004 authorizing the Gentilly 
Landfill to receive and dispose of C&D debris and wood wastes. The 
landfill started accepting C&D waste after Hurricane Katrina. 

[8] Section 404 of the Clean Water Act generally prohibits discharges 
of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States without 
first obtaining a permit from the Corps of Engineers. 

[9] GAO-07-651. 

[10] The current state emergency order includes the following footnote: 
"This provision is, and in prior Declarations of Emergency and 
Administrative Orders has been, intended to provide an authorized 
deviation from the definition of "Construction/Demolition Debris" 
provided in LAC 33:VII.115. Any Asbestos Containing Waste Material 
subject to regulation under the Air Quality Regulations (Louisiana 
Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants [LESHAP - LAC 
33:III.5151] or the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air 
Pollutants [NESHAP 40 CFR 61.140 et. seq] shall be managed and disposed 
of in accordance with the standards established therein as provided in 
the protocols established in Appendix D." 

[11] LAC 33:VII.115. 

[12] The eight parishes are Iberville, Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, 
St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Tammany, and Washington. Iberville parish 
is located southwest of Baton Rouge. The remaining parishes are in the 
New Orleans and surrounding areas. 

[13] The six parishes are Iberville, Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, 
St. Bernard, and St. Tammany. 

[14] EPA first issued no action assurance letters for these asbestos 
requirements in February 2006. Additional no action assurance letters 
were issued in February 2007, September 2007, and December 2007. 

[15] EPA, Assessing Asbestos Emissions at Regulated Asbestos-Containing 
Material (RACM) Demolition Sites in Katrina/Rita Response-Quality 
Assurance Project Plan (Sept. 13, 2007). The plan directs that sampling 
locations will be on public right-of-ways that do not exceed 100 feet 
upwind and downwind from the demolition and states that, on average, 
one demolition per day will be sampled. EPA developed a risk-based 
screening level for asbestos concentrations observed during the 
response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, using EPA's cancer risk 
methodology and assuming a 1-year continuous inhalation exposure. The 
data collected are intended to supplement and complement Occupational 
Safety and Health Administration data obtained by the Corps of 
Engineers and contractors. 

[16] GAO-07-651. 

[17] EPA also provided other debris-related assistance to Louisiana 
which we discussed in our prior report on EPA's Katrina actions (GAO- 
07-651). 

[18] Through May 15, 2008. 

[19] EPA first issued no action assurance letters for these asbestos 
requirements in February 2006. An additional no action assurance letter 
was issued on February 29, 2008, stating that EPA will not enforce 
these asbestos requirements in five New Orleans area parishes through 
August 29, 2008. 

[20] According to LDEQ, a demolition site can have more than one 
observation visit. For example, if a demolition of a property lasts 3 
days, three observations are generally conducted to document the 
demolition. 

[21] According to LDEQ, the first Katrina-related enforcement actions 
were issued in March 2006. 

[22] The primary purpose of the inspection, referred to by LDEQ as a 
"start-up inspection," was to renew the facility's permit. 

[23] The April 2007 LDEQ enforcement action also reported that state 
inspections in November 2006, December 2006, January 2007, and February 
2007 also found these violations. 

[24] The Almonaster Corridor is located in eastern New Orleans and is 
bounded by the Innerharbor Navigation Canal on the west, the 
Intracostal Waterway on the south, Interstate 510 on the east, and Chef 
Highway on the north. The area is about 5 miles long and about 1 mile 
wide. 

[25] The practice of placing one landfill on top of another has been 
used throughout the country and utilizes the existing cover system over 
the closed landfill as a liner system for the landfill on top. 

[26] LDEQ, the entity in Louisiana with primary responsibility for 
solid waste disposal under RCRA subtitle D, issued a permit in December 
2004 authorizing the Gentilly Landfill to receive and dispose of C&D 
debris and wood wastes. 

[27] Louisiana Environmental Action Network v. Louisiana Department of 
Environmental Quality, No. 537, 649, Section 8 (La. 19th Judicial 
Dist.) 

[28] G.F. Lee, Summary of Findings on the Environmental Impacts of the 
Proposed C&D Landfill on Top of the Closed Gentilly Landfill (February 
2006); and John H. Pardue, Director, Louisiana Water Resources Research 
Institute, Louisiana State University, Anticipating environmental 
problems facing hurricane debris landfills in New Orleans East 
(undated). 

[29] One of the studies also raised concerns about debris disposal at 
another landfill (Chef Menteur), which we discuss in enclosure IV. 

[30] ICF, Inc., Construction and Demolition Waste Landfills (draft 
document prepared for the EPA Office of Solid Waste, 1995). 

[31] EPA, Potential Federal CERCLA Liability for use of the Gentilly 
Landfill for debris operations from Hurricane Katrina, FEMA-1603-DR-LA, 
ESF#10 Task Order (New Orleans, L.A., Nov. 11, 2005). 

[32] The February 14, 2006, draft National Infrastructure Support 
Technical Assistance Consultants' study, Potential Impact by the Old 
Gentilly Landfill on the Environment Due to the Placement of the New 
Type III C&D Landfill-Document Review (FEMA-1603-DR-LA, ESF#10 Task 
Order), was not finalized. In April 2006, FEMA reported to EPA that it 
suspended further activities on the study because of an expected LDEQ 
decision document on Gentilly that was subsequently issued in August 
2006. 

[33] The draft report made 13 recommendations that we have aggregated 
into 8 on the basis of the topics addressed. 

[34] According to LDEQ officials, inclinometers are instruments used to 
measure the horizontal movement of the landfill, an indicator of the 
stability of the landfill's slope. 

[35] In February 2006, LDEQ and the Louisiana Environmental Action 
Network reached a settlement providing that LDEQ would, among other 
things, (1) limit the daily waste intake at Gentilly to 19,000 cubic 
yards per day until LDEQ issued a formal decision document authorizing 
Gentilly to accept hurricane-related debris, (2) include in the 
decision document an analysis of the effects of waste disposal at 
Gentilly on nearby levees, (3) develop groundwater and surface water 
monitoring plans for the landfill, and (4) require spotters to be 
present on the face of the landfill during operation of the facility. 

[36] According to LDEQ, barium, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, vanadium, 
and zinc were detected in groundwater samples and zinc was detected in 
surface water samples. 

[37] GAO-07-651. 

[38] These activities occurred before the enactment of federal 
regulations governing landfills. 

[39] United States v. City of New Orleans, et al, Civil Action No. 02- 
3618, Section E, Magistrate 3 (E.D. La.) 

[40] Biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids water sample 
results from the open excavation next to Chef Menteur were the 
constituents that exceeded the landfill's discharge limits. 

[41] Specifically, the provision states that "no Federal funds may be 
used to pay for or reimburse any state or local entity in Louisiana for 
the disposal of C&D debris generated as a result of Hurricane Katrina 
in 2005 in a landfill designated for C&D debris as described in section 
257.2 of title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, unless that waste meets 
the definition of C&D debris, as specified under Federal law and 
described in that section." Pub. L. No. 110-114,  4101(c), 112 Stat. 
1189 (2007). 

[42] 40 C.F.R.  257.2. 

[43] Although C&D landfills are not required to have liners, 
Louisiana's environmental regulations for these landfills state that 
these facilities shall have natural stable soils of low permeability 
for the area occupied by the landfill. According to the regulation, 
this soil requirement will provide a barrier to prevent surface spills 
from penetrating into groundwater aquifers underlying the area, or to a 
sand or other water-bearing stratum, that would provide a conduit to 
such aquifers (LAC 33:VII.719,D.1.)

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