Friday morning, the city conducted a thorough cleaning under the Pontchartrain Expressway.
Officials said 43 homeless people have been placed in a shelter as a result of cleanup efforts under the bridge. However, the crew performing the cleanup, firefighters, said the city crossed a line.
Friday, firefighters were under the Pontchartrain Expressway, cleaning up human waste and trash.
The city said that sanitation crews cleaned up solid waste and that the NOFD was there because the residue is considered a hazardous material. The NOFD is the city’s hazardous materials first responders. Am HM officer was at the scene to ensure proper protocol, the city said.
“All firefighters that participated in the incident were outfitted in the appropriate bio-hazard suits,” said the Mayor’s Office spokesman, Brad Howard.
The city said the move is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the risk of harm and health hazards in those areas. But the firefighters’ union doesn’t see it that way.
There is no love lost between the firefighters’ union and the city. The two have been involved in a decades-old court battle about back wages and pensions.
Earlier this week, firefighters marched on City Hall in memory of the more than 100 firefighters who died while waiting on the city to pay up. By the week’s end, they were cleaning up human waste under the bridge.
“We are absolutely upset, disturbed,” said Nick Felton, president of the New Orleans Firefighters Association. “It seems absolutely coincidental that right after we had our march on City Hall, right after we went to court to enforce our consent judgment, Chief McConnel has ordered the men and women to clean up fecal matter under the bridge.”
In a statement, the city indicated that multiple departments were involved, including the Sanitation Department and the Downtown Development District. The New Orleans Fire Department was used to deploy high-power pressure washers. The city said the NOFD has performed this type of work in previous cases multiple times.
Felton questioned the use of resources and said the city crossed a line.
“I will be reporting this to the proper authorities because it is improper,” Felton said. “Just like they have us putting up banners. While it is not part of our job description for private business, we are firefighters. We fight fires. We go to emergency instances. We don’t clean up.”
This week, a judge ordered both parties back to mediation to see if a resolution could be reached in the dispute.
Both sides are set to meet again June 25.
From WDSU 6 News