I bet in a post Katrina world, there isn’t a single driver in southeast Louisiana who doesn’t have at least one story about debris falling from a trash truck either striking their vehicle, caused them to take dangerously evasive actions, or striking something on the roadway. With tons and tons of Hurricane Katrina trash being hauled to landfills, most all of which are located on the west bank just over the Jefferson and St. Charles Parish lines, it seems as though all roads to the landfills lead through St. Charles Parish, even from parishes far to our east. All of this has local residents experiencing a much larger percentage of driving challenges than any other community.
The rebuilding of southeast Louisiana is a regional effort and as such, we all share in the responsibility. But, there needs to be balance, the hauling of trash is no exception. This is something that has taken on a greater emphasis after DEQ has drastically reduced the amount of debris that can be placed in a New Orleans East dump making the dump near St. Charles Parish the only receptacle for what will certainly be a year or two of the same volume of hauling traffic through our area.
It is embarrassing to drive down I-310 and Hwy 90 where trash lines the roadways creating an eyesore. Although great efforts have gone into cleaning our highways, it almost seems pointless at times. Within hours, the trash reappears, compliments of trash haulers more interested in making quicker trips that yields greater pay potential. Cutting corners, they fail to secure and cover their loads and that raises serious safety concerns. With at least one fatality caused after Katrina when a motorcyclist struck a mattress in the roadway, there must be greater emphasis on highway safety.
Although there have been many cited for hauling unsafe loads through St. Charles Parish since the recovery efforts began, Sheriff Greg Champagne recently increased his efforts in citing trash haulers after safety inspection points were set up. It has been suggested that politics in Jefferson Parish rerouted the haulers on a longer route that would go through Jefferson Parish’s westbank. This would take them from New Orleans through St. Charles Parish onto US Hwy 90 and across the Jefferson line to one of the only fully operational landfills in the metro area.
We are all dealing with many challenges thanks to Katrina. Increases in population, longer lines at the store, overwhelmed highways that were never designed for the volume of traffic now experiencing, a spike in traffic accidents and changes to our once quiet parish are evident at every turn. But, it doesn’t have to be at the sake of safety.
We will continue to do our part in the rebuilding of the metro area. The challenges facing us should not be any greater than our neighbors’ and it shouldn’t be at the sake of the safety of our residents.