Roughly 7.2 million pounds of debris were removed from clogged city catch basins across the city during a four-month emergency cleaning program, including more than 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads.

The massive haul was announced Thursday, as city officials touted the end of a 120-day catch basin cleanup effort, part of the Emergency Catch Basin Cleaning and Repair Program. The $22 million dollar contract was proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration in response to the heavy August flooding that wreaked havoc on neighborhoods across the city and exposed problems with the Sewerage & Water Board’s drainage system as well as the clogged catch basins and drains.

The project commenced on Sept. 26 with the goal of cleaning 15,000 catch basins.  Department of Public Works Director Dani Galloway said the project hit the 15,000 mark on Wednesday. 

The city hired Compliance Envirosystems LLC. for the cleaning portion of the project, after the firm initially hired the job, Kenner company RAMJ, was fired within the first week. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality found RAMJ improperly disposed of the trash it collected and brought fewer resources to the table than they had promised.

In total, Galloway said, 23,000 catch basins were cleaned throughout the city in 2017, which included work from city crews, who cleaned 5,249 catch basins, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, which cleaned more than 1,500 catch basins in the city along state routes.

“This has been a true testament to teamwork to get this important work done on time and on budget,” Galloway said.

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The city has a total of 68,000 catch basins citywide. Prior to the August flooding, the city had a goal of cleaning about 4,000 catch basins annually. Galloway said that number will likely be closer to 6,000 or 6,500 in 2018.

“It’s not going to be near the figures we have now because we’re not funded for this kind of work on a daily basis,” she said.

Members of DPW also worked on neighborhood engagement by holding meetings in every district across the city to educate residents on the functions of drainage system and the importance of keeping the outside areas surrounding the catch basins clean.

Though the cleaning portion of the program is completed, the emergency repair part of the program – which commenced in October - will continue throughout June, and addresses some of the more serious repairs needed to catch basins in the city, 2,000 of which have been fixed so far. Galloway estimated “several thousand” catch basins in the city are still in need of repairs, and said 25 catch basin repair crews have been assigned to tackle the project.

Though the total amount of Mardi Gras beads extricated wasn’t clear, the 93,000 pounds cited referred only to the haul taken from catch basins along the popular parade route on St. Charles Avenue from Poydras Street to Lee Circle, Galloway said.

Galloway said members of DPW were in meetings with sanitation crews to try and improve this year’s cleanup, which includes increased efforts to sweep the beads to the middle of the street during cleanup, rather to the side where they are likely to fall into and clog storm drains. 

“Once you hear a number like that, you never go back – so we have to do better." 


Follow Helen Freund on Twitter, @helenfreund.