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‘Honest Folks Trying to Attain American Dream of Homeownership’: New Orleans Encouraged Black Residents To Live in Homes on a Toxic Landfill. Now Officials Refuse to Relocate Them.

Nearly three decades after learning their neighborhood was built on contaminated soil, government officials have not fully compensated or relocated a group of Black families for the inequity.

New Orleans built the 67 houses atop a former garbage landfill after promoting the area as a chance for low-income homeownership for African-Americans in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Residents of Gordon Plaza have fought for decades for relocation and compensation for homes being built on toxic land. (Photo: Nnoirnnola/Twitter)

When families moved in, they planted fruit trees and played in their backyards in Gordon Plaza. Not knowing the dirt was filled with 149 toxic contaminants, 49 of them linked to cancer, according to an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s.

It is considered one of the worst examples of environmental injustice in U.S. history, according to a recent Washington Post report.

Some residents of the converted landfill are reportedly stuck with homes they can’t resell and plagued with various forms of cancer and other sicknesses. About 5,000 residents won millions in state court judgments against the city, housing authority and the local public school system, but officials have refused to pay the damages.

Residents worry that the money may not be enough to buy new homes elsewhere in New Orleans.

“This case is a living example of the need for environmental justice. And it screams out as an example of environmental racism,” said Suzette Bagneris, the lead attorney for the residents’ class-action suit.

“The residents of the Agriculture Street Landfill were hard-working, honest folks who worked multiple jobs trying to attain the American Dream of homeownership, only to suffer an American nightmare when the very soil under their homes literally started to kill them.”

Read full story at Atlanta Black Star here.

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