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Councilmembers question whether trash pickup is monitored properly in NOLA

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:18 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - “Do we feel that we have monitored these contracts well?” says Councilwoman Kristin Palmer.

The New Orleans Council grilled the Mayor’s administration about how the city’s monitoring trash collection.

Under an emergency contract, the city hired a national company, Cere Environmental, to pick up the backlog of trash and another company to monitor the work.

The city hopes FEMA will reimburse the expenses.

“So, I’m concerned that we have to have proper monitoring of the situation, so we have to ensure that what is being monitored and what is being applied can be actually approved by FEMA,” says Palmer.

The city estimated the emergency work to cost about 20 million dollars, but that number could change.

“We had to come up with a guess as to what this could cost, and that was where that number came from because we had to give FEMA a number to review. We don’t know how much it’s going to cost because it depends on how much trash is out there,” says Ramsey Green.

In a recent undercover Lee Zurik investigation, we found trucks working for Ceres picking up what three sources call construction and demolition, or C and D debris, and loading it into a truck dedicated to trash.

Also, at the transfer site, opened under an emergency order to help solve the trash crisis, we found trucks dumping drywall, wood, and even furniture.

Sources in the industry say it’s unclear if mixing trash and debris will impact any reimbursement from FEMA.

“Yes, we have to ensure that we have a greater level of accountability for the different types of debris so that we do get reimbursed for that through FEMA,” says Palmer.

Lee Zurik talked to a company monitor on the scene where a crew was working. The monitor appeared unclear on the rules. Councilmember Jay Banks says the average person, though, doesn’t care whether it’s debris or trash, they just want it gone.

“If a citizen living on ABC street has a pile of trash in front of their house, what is the difference? There ain’t none,” says Banks.

“FEMA cares and the contractor cares,” says CAO Ramsey Green.

The city acknowledged to the council that it does matter to FEMA, and councilmembers question whether the process is being monitored properly.

The city says it estimated the emergency contracts will last about 30 days, but Deputy CAO Ramsey Green told the council today, the city will likely ask for an extension.

RELATED STORIES:

Tensions high: Council members, Cantrell administration have contentious meeting over delayed trash pickup

‘Set everything on fire and call it a day,’ Residents losing patience with stinking, growing trash piles

Mayor Cantrell gives reassurance on the City’s trash removal

Zurik: City says priority is getting trash picked up, not mixing trash with debris

Zurik: Contractors mixing debris and trash could cost city more money

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