Closure of Harrelson Landfill in MLK area of Shreveport will be - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Closure of Harrelson Landfill in MLK area of Shreveport will be months-long, intensive process

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)

Residents in the Martin Luther King neighborhood have long complained about the smoke from the smoldering fire at the Harrelson Materials Management Landfill. Now, with an impending closure for the facility, there's relief, but still plenty of concern.

"How can we be assured that there is no contamination there??"

"We don't want to be dying just because somebody wants to build something over there!!"

"This fire's been burning for years!! Why hasn't it been put out in all these years??"

"We need to make sure that even 10, 15, 20 years down the line, that we're not having children developing cancer and asthma."

"By October he will not have a permit at all, and it will start the process of closing, but we still have a problem and we've got to resolve the problem that we have,' said Sen. Greg Tarver at a recent public meeting.

Those were the words residents in MLK had been waiting years to hear.

Harrelson won't be renewing his permit, which expires in October, effectively closing the facility.

But that will be a months-long, labor-intensive process, according to officials with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal.

That's because before anyone can lock the gate - and walk away - the fire that's burning deep under the mountain of debris must be extinguished at its source.

"He intends to put out the fire and close in conjunction, so that at the end of the fire being put out, it'll be in the posture to close," said Cheryl Nolan with DEQ.

Representatives from both DEQ and the State Fire Marshal told the audience at a packed public meeting recently at Southern Universtiy in Shreveport why it will take upwards of 8 months or more before the landfill officially closes.

RELATED STORY: Harrelson Landfill in Shreveport to shutdown permanently

Natural caverns underground have been created by the heat, allowing the fire to travel and re-ignite in other places.

State Fire Marshall Butch Browning explained that experts trained to work in extremely hot, oxygen depleted environments will have to dig down to the 'seat' of the fire.

Then, ambient air will be let in to the cool those caverns to a temperature that will prevent the fire from re-igniting.

"So once the fire is out, and the landfill is closed, there's a procedure that you must go through, rules and regulations, that are governed by the Permits Dept. of DEQ," said Nolan.

That begins what's called the 'post-closure monitoring period' of the landfill, which could take another 6 months.

During that time, Harrelson will need to meet very specific conditions set by DEQ.

Most of the exposed construction and demolition debris will be hauled off and disposed.

What's left will be compacted, covered in two feet of soil, and re-sodded to allow for grass growth.

"There will still be somewhat of a hill. It'll be smaller than it is, but it'll still be there and it will be covered with two feet of material to make sure water doesn't get down in there," said another DEQ rep.

But a grass-covered hill is many months down the line, and in the meantime, residents just hope for a breath of fresh air.

Residents also questioned whether another party could come in, buy the property, and start up the landfill once again.

Sen. Tarver will host another public meeting to address those issues on Thursday, July 24th.

It'll start at 5-30 p.m. in the Jesse Stone Science Lecture Hall at Southern University in Shreveport.

Representatives from DEQ, DHH, and local attorneys will be there to answer residents' legal questions.

In the meantime, the city is again asking the State Fire Marshal to improve Harrelson's fire mitigation plan, which is a crucial part of the closure process.

In a letter to Butch Browning, Mayor Cedric Glover requests that he review the plan that - according to the city - has some major weaknesses.

Glover wants Browning to research and verify any other active permits Harrelson may have for the site.

The mayor says he's also concerned about the landfill's ability to continue to accept construction and demolition debris which may contribute to that fire.

State and city officials are still working with Harrelson to finalize a fire mitigation plan in order to proceed with the facility's closure.

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