NEW ORLEANS — UPDATE: A lawsuit has been filed in connection with the radioactive material cleanup in Gert Town, and it could expand into a class-action suit.
Eric Lassair, the lead plaintiff, along with his sister, said the hazardous conditions were kept secret for years and recent cleanup efforts have left residents exposed.
"It's unfortunate for this community that the city failed to warn them and to protect them regarding the presence of it," said Attorney Suzette Bagneris. "Even now they have their environmental contractors out there wearing protective gear where they excavate the soil, while residents sixty feet from the contamination have no protective gear."
Fresh asphalt went down near Lowerline Street and Coolidge Court in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans Tuesday.
Crews were paving over large holes, which were punched into the roadway to remove radioactive material recently discovered under the street.
Neighbor Leo Soniat said he has concerns as he watches the work through the fence in his backyard.
"I'm really worried about the radiation effect on everybody around here, including myself," Soniat said. "I have a lot of grandkids that come back and forth through here, also."
The Environmental Protection Agency spent the day scanning Gert Town for radiation. EPA crews have been working at the site since the end of May.
"The remediation project has been completed, and the material was safely removed out of an abundance of caution," City Communications Director Beau Tidwell said.
Tidwell added there is no risk of health problems as a result of the radiation. However, a team of attorneys is now considering an environmental class-action lawsuit against the city.
"They have known for quite some time of the presence of the radioactive material underneath the soil of these residents homes and businesses," attorney Suzette Bagneris said. "(They) failed to warn them and failed to protect them from the potential hazards."
Bagneris' client is Eric Lassair. He grew up in Gert Town and was diagnosed with acute Leukemia at an early age.
"If there's active chemicals in there, we want to know what's causing it and where it's coming from," Lassair said. "I'm also concerned too about the neighborhood being protected in terms of the cleanup."
Soniat, who's home backs up to the site, wants to know how far the contamination has migrated.
The site is just blocks from where the old Thompson-Haywood chemical plant, which once made pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
"If the chemical plant was just three blocks that way and they're finding radiation this far back where else can it be," Soniat. "That's my biggest concern."
According to EPA officials, on Tuesday, investigators found no new locations contaminated by radiation.
EPA crews were set to continue scanning the Gert Town area until Thursday.