Gordon Plaza Deemed EPA Superfund Site

Stop 5 of 7 on the Gordon Plaza tour.

By 1985, just four years after the first residents moved into Gordon Plaza, state environmentalists recommended testing soil and air in the Gordon Plaza subdivision to determine the extent of hazardous wastes underneath the houses that were built over an old landfill. Testing performed at the site of the new Moton Elementary School in 1983-1984 revealed high levels of toxic chemicals in the soil. Due to their proximity to the contaminated school site, Gordon Plaza residents demanded the testing of their own soil. It was at this point that residents discovered their homes were built on the former Agricultural Street Landfill, where many of the growing industries of New Orleans dumped their toxic chemicals and garbage for over fifty years. [1] A Times-Picayune article from October 3, 1986, states that “residents and local environmentalists were still concerned with the toxic chemicals after Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials told them that lead was the only one in over 130 toxic chemicals discovered in levels high enough to generate health concerns.”

Following a sewage leak in 1993, concerns over the toxicity of Gordon Plaza land surfaced once again. Despite earlier assertions that the pollutant levels were not dangerous, the EPA designated the Gordon Plaza subdivision as a Superfund site in 1994. The initial reaction of the community was positive because they believed they would be able to get access to funding for relocation, however, this would not prove to be the result. The EPA encouraged people not to dig in their yards or gardens. Relocation of Gordon Plaza residents was not considered as a solution by the EPA. In 1994, the first class-action lawsuit was filed by Press Park and Gordon Plaza residents against the city of New Orleans, the New Orleans school board, and two unnamed construction companies, for knowingly putting their houses in a contaminated area. In 2001 the EPA oversaw the installation of a layer of topsoil on Gordon Plaza properties to form a barrier from the toxic land. This soil was washed away by flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

In the videos below, longtime Gordon Plaza resident Shannon Rainey discusses the impact that toxic chemicals buried underneath Gordon Plaza have had on her, her family, and her neighbors.

Video

Shannon Rainey discovers that her property was contaminated with 152 toxic chemicals.
Source: Video courtesy of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans. ~ Creator: Oral history interview with Shannon Rainey conducted by Lones Gagnard, Vickie Lacoste, Ella McIntire, and Daniel Lamplugh. ~ Date:...
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Shannon Rainey, longtime Gordon Plaza resident, discusses the medical implications of living on the toxic soil of the Gordon Plaza neighborhood.
Source: Video courtesy of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans. ~ Creator: Oral history interview with Shannon Rainey conducted by Lones Gagnard, Vickie Lacoste, Ella McIntire, and Daniel Lamplugh.
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