Mary Tutwiler

Iberia Parish sued over trash

by Mary Tutwiler

After more than a decade of permit applications, lawsuits, legislative bills and news stories, Gordon Doerle’s disposal company will need a new landfill just to handle the amount of paper generated by the fight. Last week Doerle filed suit against Iberia Parish Government for $65 million, claiming damages of loss of income and property value.

Doerle, who opened a construction and demolition debris landfill on the Iberia/St. Martin Parish line in 1994, has been involved in controversy for the entire 14 years of operation. The first suit was filed by a group named People Opposing Waste, consisting mostly of neighboring property owners. POW claimed loss of property value, groundwater contamination concerns and proximity to the Acadiana Regional Airport as reasons the landfill should be shut down. That suit is dormant, but in 2006, Doerle filed a permit application with DEQ to expand from approximately 15 acres in St. Martin Parish to 60 acres in Iberia. Currently, Doerle is under contract with the city of New Iberia to pick up and dispose of yard waste, which he turns into mulch, construction and demolition debris, and bulky waste. He also holds the city’s storm recovery contract. While he says his permit for the expansion is technically complete with DEQ, Iberia Parish, which has an ordinance regulating waste disposal sites, refused to grant Doerle a parish permit or variance.

In 2007, Doerle opened a pick-up station on the Iberia Parish part of the site, to transfer residential and commercial waste from garbage trucks to 18 wheelers, which truck the garbage to landfills in Welsh, between Jennings and Lake Charles, or Walker, in Livingston Parish. Garbage from St. Martin, Lafayette, Vermilion, St. Mary, Iberia and St. Landry Parishes, brought in by multiple garbage companies, use the pick-up station. Doerle claims he doesn’t need a permit from DEQ to operate the pick-up station. Iberia Parish Government says he is in violation of their waste ordinance and that his operation attracts birds, which is a hazard to air traffic at the adjacent airport. Last year the parish filed suit to shut down the pick-up station, and this legislative session, Senator Troy Hebert passed a bill forbidding the transfer of waste in proximity to the airport.

The need to expand the construction and demolition debris part of his business is pressing. Doerle says he is rapidly filling up the cells which hold the debris, and needs to expand within the next two months or his business will have to shut down. “I got so fed up I filed suit,” he says. His lawsuit is against the parish for unconstitutionally attempting to keep him from expanding his landfill, while granting variances to another privately owned waste disposal site, as well as opening a parish-owned site. The suit will be heard in the 16th Judicial District, which encompasses Iberia and St. Martin Parishes.