In New Orleans, clean-up crews have found 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads in the catch basins on St. Charles Avenue between Poydras Street and Lee Circle. These festive plastic staples were clogging 15,000, or fully one-quarter, of the city’s basins, which are used to drain and protect the city from flooding. As part of a $7 million contract, crews from Baton Rouge-based EnviroSystems used nearly two-dozen vacuum trucks to extract 7.2 million pounds of debris, of which 93,000 pounds were Mardi Gras beads. “This is a staggering number,” interim director of the New Orleans Department of Public Works Dani Galloway told the Times-Picayune.
In response to the massive amount of Mardi Gras beads posing a threat to the city’s ability to drain itself in case of flooding, the Public Works and Sanitation departments are currently brainstorming ways to prevent further damage from beads, including installing temporary “gutter buddies” to keep the beads out. During a press conference, Galloway also emphasized the need of ordinary citizens to step up and clear catch basins in their own neighborhoods. Dozens of residents in every city district have already received training on how to properly clean the catch basins.
The clean-up operation comes after extensive flooding during the summer of 2017, which was blamed in part on the city’s backlog of clogged catch basins. This backlog existed despite $3 million having been allocated to deal with the problem. Following last summer’s flooding, the New Orleans City Council approved a $22 million emergency plan to address the issue. Although external contractors were hired to do the work, much of the labor was sourced within the city. “They are our own people doing this work,” said Galloway. “This is important because it maximizes economic impact on the city’s contracts for the people that live and work here.”