How Do We Deal with This Mess? A Primer for State and Local Governments on Navigating the Legal Complexities of Debris Issues Following Mass Disasters


The devastation wrought by the 2005 hurricane season brought into bold relief the need for comprehensive debris management plans in the United States. As cleanup efforts commenced following Hurricane Katrina, it became abundantly apparent that the local governments were not prepared to deal with the massive scope of the debris problem.

Disasters will occur. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. The entire nation is at risk of being struck by some type of disaster at some time. The best way to deal with the outfall from these disasters is to be prepared for them to the best extent possible. Thus, state and local governments should act now to ensure that mechanisms, both legal and logistical, are in place to deal with such problems as debris management.

It is impossible in one paper to identify every possible debris-related eventuality and problem that any particular United States jurisdiction may encounter in the wake of a disaster. However, a review of the basic legal procedures for initiating the debris cleanup process and the lessons learned in Louisiana as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita can help other similarly situated jurisdictions to expedite their recovery processes in the future. This article is one such review.


Constitutional Law | Environmental Law | Law | Law and Society | Legislation

Date of this Version

January 2007