Officials Argue Over Who's Responsible For Rotting Debris In West Gulfport

Debris removal teams have made a dent in west Gulfport. Yet, much of the area remains covered with hurricane trash.

Here's the problem. Seven weeks after the hurricane, decaying pieces of chicken once stored in a Port of Gulfport freezer remain buried under piles of lumber and tree limbs.

Neighbors are incensed, because nobody appears to have stepped forward to clean the mess.

"It was awful. I guess it smelled like death. Everybody says that's what death smelled like," Peggy VanderVelde said.

For seven weeks, the noxious odor Peggy VanderVelde described was hidden in debris that littered west Gulfport. Bags of once frozen poultry and pork rotted under a mess created by Hurricane Katrina.

"It was very rank. It was almost unbearable to clean up."

And VanderVelde wasn't the only person who noticed it. Far from it. Most people with property west of the Port of Gulfport have had port debris, including decaying chicken and pork bellies, covering their yards.

Port Director Don Allee is very aware of the smell that hovers just to his west.

"If I'm not mistaken, I think the farthest point from the freezer to where I've heard a complaint is somewhere inside of two miles."

Allee's map showed a port debris field that extended to the Gulfport Long Beach border.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, a west Gulfport neighbor holding a pork belly found in her yard said somebody better come up with a clean up method, before the sickening smell sends her packing.

"I don't think there is any way you can capture every 40 pound bag of frozen product when it was blown out en masse," Alee said.

And he argues that cleaning up any port debris that flew into west Gulfport isn't his agency's responsibility. However, the port based P&O stevedore group has sent clean up crews through the neighborhood.

Peggy VanderVelde said because of their work, and FEMA trucks, the air is easier to breathe.

"I think it's a lot better than it was. Oh my, I see so much progress being made."

Mayor Warr believes somebody other than the city has a legal responsibility to clean the debris. A lawsuit could be filed to settle the matter. Meanwhile, the city council will meet on Friday, and the west Gulfport situation may be addressed.