Opposition to Toxic School Site in New Orleans Continues, as School District Moves Ahead

On Wednesday, advocates and neighbors protested the plan to build a new school on the site of the former Booker T. Washington High, because of concerns over toxic contamination. The site was home to the Silver City / Clio Street Dump from the 1890s through the 1930s, and state testing of the soil has found dangerous levels of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs), which cause a host of cancers and other serious health problems.

In July, the Recovery School District announced it would pause its plan to build a $55 million school on the site, citing community concerns about the health risks. This week they were ready to press play again, presenting an altered plan to remediate the site at a public meeting Wednesday night. Where the previous plan called for excavating three feet of soil, the new plan would also bring in six feet of clean soil and a fabric barrier to separate the new building's foundation from the contamination. At a press conference prior to the RSD meeting, faith leaders, environmental groups, the Walter L. Cohen Alumni Association, and residents of Marrero Commons (which is adjacent to the site), said the plan is insufficient, partially because the contamination runs at least 15 feet deep (no samples below that depth have been taken). They called for a "safe and effective" clean-up of the site, and urged that the community be fully informed and involved in remediation planning. Also on the former dump site, construction is underway on the new Rosenwald Community Center.