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New Orleans Residents Protest Proposed Landfill Site

Dozens of residents of swampy eastern New Orleans Thursday protested Mayor Ray Nagin's move to allow a new dump for Hurricane Katrina debris to go up near their community.

The protesters — Vietnamese-Americans, including nuns, children and retirees — rallied outside City Hall, shouting "No Landfill," and then won a resolution from the City Council that asks Nagin to rescind his February emergency order clearing the way for the dump.

Their outcry was the latest hurdle in the city's rebuilding. It came from an influential group not known for protests: Roman Catholic refugees and their descendants who settled in eastern New Orleans after the communist takeover of Vietnam.

The Rev. Luke Nguyen of the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church said a landfill would drive property values down and discourage residents from returning to east New Orleans at a time when the community needs people and has begun building a "Viet-Town" to attract tourists.

Environmental groups have also blasted the proposed landfill, charging that officials have tried to ram the project through the permitting process. If built, the landfill would also abut the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

Veronica White, the city's sanitation director, said the landfill would not contaminate the area and would not pose a risk to nearby waterways. She said a lack of landfill space has slowed debris removal, and that it would $50,000 more a day to truck the debris elsewhere.

She said there are still about 12.5 million cubic yards of debris to pick up.

The use of the nearby Old Gentilly Landfill, an old city dump, as the primary site for disposal of Katrina debris in New Orleans has also drawn fire.

The Sierra Club and other groups argue it was not suitable for so much waste and that it will become an environmental hazard.