Landfill owner, DEQ reach settlement

The owner of a controversial landfill that was closed in 2009 has agreed to pay $73,904 and at least $150,000 for environmental cleanup work as part of a pending settlement with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ and Gordon’s Disposal, owned by New Iberia businessman Gordon Doerle, have agreed to the terms of the settlement, but the deal has yet to be formalized, DEQ officials said Wednesday.

The construction and demolition debris landfill on the border of Iberia and St. Martin parishes had been fought by some residents in the area since it opened in 1994.

DEQ ordered the closure of the landfill in 2009 after denying a permit for an expansion that was needed for continued operation at the site, which had reached its capacity.

At the time, DEQ officials cited concerns from Coteau-area residents and federal aviation officials, who feared birds coming and going from the landfill might affect air traffic at the nearby Acadiana Regional Airport.

The pending settlement resolves a long list of alleged violations at the landfill and an on-site waste transfer station dating back to 2004.

“It wraps up all the pending issues for this site,” said Celena Cage, administrator of DEQ’s Enforcement Division.

Alleged violations outlined in the 23-page settlement document include the failure to properly cover waste to keep trash from blowing onto adjacent property; disposing of waste in buffer areas that were supposed to be kept clear; failure to perform required environmental tests at the site; and failure to submit all the required reports to DEQ.

Doerle did not return a call to his office Wednesday for comment on the settlement.

The settlement document reads that his company agrees to pay the $73,904 “without making any admission of liability under state or federal statute or regulation.”

Doerle has also agreed in the settlement to spend an estimated $150,000 to $280,000 to stabilize a nearby landfill that was operated by another owner — the David Trahan Construction and Demolition Landfill off Coteau Road in Iberia Parish.

DEQ shut down the Trahan landfill in 2009.

DEQ spokesman Rodney Mallett said the owners did not have the money to do the work that DEQ requires when landfills are closed, such as capping the waste with 2 feet of clay, planting a grass covering and grading the site to prevent the dirt cap from washing away.

Doerle will assume the expense for that work, Mallett said.

“It will ensure the waste remains in place,” he said.

The settlement stipulates that if Doerle does not spend at least $150,000 to close the Trahan landfill, he will pay the difference to DEQ.

Mallett said DEQ’s legal settlements sometimes involve a component called a “beneficial environmental project.”

“The project is the closure of the Trahan landfill,” he said.

Some residents in the area remain skeptical, because Doerle has talked of starting a new landfill adjacent to the Trahan site off Coteau Road.

“If you look at all the deficiencies that DEQ has written about him, why would they allow him to put in another landfill,” said Myra Boutte, who lives across the street from the Trahan site and whose family owns about 144 acres next to it.