Gordon Plaza EPA Failures | Environmental & Climate Injustice

Washington (GGM) Analysis | August 6, 2021 byNoreen Wise, author, climate journalist, Act Now community builder

“Responsibility is accepting that you are the cause and the solution of the matter.”  
—Anonymous

Following an article written on June 7, 2021 outlining the many decades of suffering that the families of the New Orleans subdivision, Gordon Plaza, have endured as a result of the galling indifference of federal, state and local leaders, and their refusal to take responsibility for the traumatic plight of the Gordon Plaza residents, I sent an email to EPA’s Environmental Justice Division, requesting answers to a few questions: 

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∙What new measures is the EPA implementing to protect residents of Gordon Plaza (who are already dealing with environment hazards) from the climate change impact on these environmental hazards?

∙What is the EPA doing to address the safety of Gordon Plaza residents from the threat of the wet bulb temperature (Gordon Plaza used to be called Danté’s Inferno because of the fires caused from spontaneous combustion), thus it seems possible that this particular land could potentially explode? I cited the recent explosion of Chemtool outside of Chicago that is currently being investigated. I even mentioned that potentially the entire subdivision could explode and everyone could potentially be killed. 

∙The residents are seeking a fully funded relocation which is very reasonable. Why is this being denied?

Tragically, two days ago on August 4, 2021, in Ellisville, Mississippi, 112 miles north of New Orleans, 35 year old James Keyes was tragically killed by explosion while at work at Jarrell Recycling scrapyard. Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office, Mississippi Office of DHS, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on hand to investigate the explosion and determined it was caused by an ordinance. No mention of whether the extreme heat of 95ºF triggered the ordinance that had found its way into the scrap heap.

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The EPA Press Office replied as follows:

“Both the Gordon Plaza Apartments and the Gordon Plaza subdivison were included in the residential property clean up that EPA completed in 2001. Lead was the primary contaminant addressed by the cleanup. The cleanup of the Gordon Plaza residential properties included excavating the top 24 inches of lead-contaminated soil and transporting it off-site for disposal; placing a filter fabric on the subgrade;  then covering the residential properties with 24 inches of clean fill.  Following this cleanup, EPA determined that no additional cleanup actions were necessary to protect human health and the environment at the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site.

“EPA conducts a review of Superfund site cleanups at least every five years.  These Five Year Reviews (FYR) include a protectiveness statement to communicate EPA’s most recent evaluation of a cleanup’s protectiveness.  The fourth FYR of EPA’s cleanup (also called the remedy) at the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site was completed on September 7, 2018.  The FYR determined the remedy for the residential properties, including the Gordon Plaza apartments and subdivison, is protective of human health and the environment.”

First, the 2001 clean up mentioned in the EPA’s reply, was washed away during Hurricane Katrina. Residents repeatedly asked for the clean fill to be replaced. I could not uncover any documentation that stated that the clean fill had been replaced, nor does the above email reply indicate it was replaced. The most logical conclusion that can be drawn, is that the health and well-being of Gordon Plaza residents have been at grave risk since 2005. The 2019 Louisiana Tumor Registry listed Gordon Plaza as the second highest tumor rate in the entire state of Louisiana. If these alarming facts aren’t of concern to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Division, there doesn’t appear to be many issues that will enable the EPA to meet the public’s expectations of such an important and noble mission as environmental justice.

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Second, the FYR on September 7, 2018 was during the Trump Administration which was very vocal in their opposition to regulations. Under Trump, the EPA implemented an aggressive campaign to delete superfund sites from the National Priorities List (NPL). The EPA eliminated a staggering 82 sites. There does not appear to be any plans for the current EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan to review the 82 sites deleted from the NPL to make sure these Trump Administration FYRs were thorough.

Gallant Gold Media will continue to follow the Gordon Plaza environmental & climate injustice story. Gordon Plaza lives matter, too. It’s demeaning for the public to see fellow American families treated with such indifference. It must feel dehumanizing for Gordon Plaza residents to experience so many slammed doors, and the blatant contempt of moral integrity. 

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