In New Orleans, the storm drains appear to be decked out for a party — that’s because they are clogged with Mardi Gras beads.
How big is the problem? “Specifically: 93,000 pounds [of beads were pulled from] a five-block stretch of St. Charles Avenue downtown,” The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in January.
That's 46 tons of beads, and it was part of 7.2 million pounds of trash pulled from the basins on that stretch, Reuters reported.
Dani Galloway, interim director of the city's Department of Public Works, said the city is committed to cleaning up its act.
"Once you hear a number like that, there's no going back," Galloway said, per the report. "So we've got to do better."
The city is deploying a tool known as “gutter buddies” to alleviate the problem.
“They consist of orange sleeves filled with pebbles that let water filter through to drains while blocking debris such as Carnival beads. The city purchased 200 of them at a cost of around $30,000, and workers installed nearly all of them along the St. Charles Avenue parade route,” The Times-Picayune reported this month, citing a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office.
The backdrop is that New Orleans is in the midst of a major initiative to clean up catch basins.
“Since late September, crews working under a $7 million emergency contract have flushed out 15,000 clogged catch basins — nearly one-fourth of the city's full roster of about 68,000. Using almost two dozen vacuum trucks, crews working for Baton Rouge-based Compliance EnviroSystems managed to collect around 7.2 million pounds of debris from September 26 to January 23,” the report said.
Craig Belden, press secretary for the mayor, said the gutter buddies are a response to the cleaning effort.
"After successful completion of the City's emergency catch basin cleaning program, it was clear more needed to be done to prevent beads from entering catch basins," Belden said, per The Times-Picayune.
Image credit: "mardi gras beads," ashley adams © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/