SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - People living in the historic MLK neighborhood say a landfill fire near them is making them sick. It's caught the attention of the mayor, a state senator, state fire marshal, and environmental leaders. But figuring out who is responsible is just as complicated as sifting through the tons of trash on the site. Now, new documents have surfaced including lawsuits on the landfill fight.
The landfill holds construction and demolition debris. A fire at the landfill has left many pointing the finger at Michael Harrelson, owner of Harrelson Materials Management, located off of Russell Road. Harrelson says it has been a fight since 2010 and he has spent $3.6 million dollars trying to put out the fire. He says he is basically broke.
Harrelson says "it's just more than we can take" when talking about how emotionally drained his family is from the fire.
People who live in the historic MLK community near the landfill say it's more than they can take. More than two dozen homeowners say they are suffering from respiratory issues and they say the landfill is to blame.
Charon Washington who lives near the landfill says she wears a mask just to breathe. Another neighbor, Annie Ealy says she wants to know what is underground. One man who lives in the MLK neighborhood handed over documents to KSLA News 12. He did not want to be identified, but the report from six years ago show an outline of issues from neighbors who are concerned about the proper zoning of the landfill and also the environmental concerns.
Despite their concerns six years ago, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit.
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover says the landfill never should have been allowed to open.
"This is an example of state officials, state DEQ personnel basically in cahoots in conspiracy to pollute and profit from the citizens of Shreveport" claims Glover.
But State Senator Greg Tarver says the mayor did not protect homeowners when he settled a lawsuit filed against the previous administration for conspiring to put Harrelson out of business and help another disposal company who had business dealings with the city. That suit awarded Michael Harrelson hundreds of thousands of dollars and even tax credits for his landfill on Mt. Zion Road.
Still, Mayor Glover stands by the settlement. He says the city paid far less than the $9.9 million dollars Harrelson was asking for. Senator Tarver says the city is somewhat responsible for what is happening at the landfill since the suit allowed Harrelson to continue to operate.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told says 60 percent of the site has an underground fire which is a lot larger than his agency original thought. Browning is overseeing a professional company that specializes in putting out these types of fires.
Michael Harrelson blames the city for the fires and says the city was operating an underground water main when he was told it was not being used. Documents have recently surfaced that show an uphill battle. Some of the documents, which include emails dating back to 2002, prior to Harrelson buying the landfill show the City of Shreveport was working to purchase a right of way for the 18 inch water main.
"The city of Shreveport gave us inclination and DEQ every inclination that this water main was not going to be there and be a source of the problem" says Harrelson.
In June 2009, Harrelson says he noticed water pouring out his landfill. A firm hired by Harrelson blames the city's ruptured water main for allowing oxygen to the fire. Harrelson said when the millions of gallons of water ran out of the holes, millions of gallons of air went in which added more fuel to the fire.
DEQ has since come in and shut the landfill down, locking out Harrelson from his own business and forcing the state DEQ to make a move.
Public hearings continue in the landfill controversy. Homeowners who live nearby are planning a class action lawsuit.