It’s Costing New Orleans Millions To Remove Mardi Gras Beads From Clogged Storm Drains

The city of New Orleans is dealing with a unique problem when it comes to mitigating flooding within the city limits, and that’s the arduous task of removing tons of colorful Mardi Gras beads from the storm drains. New Orleans has had heavier rains than usual in the last year, and so the city council has had to allot $7 million to clear out New Orleans catch basins of the multi-colored Mardi Gras beads which are contributing to the streets flooding.

New Orleans Has A New Problem Causing Flooding, and It’s Mardi Gras Beads

Major flooding took place in August, spurring the New Orleans City Council to hold emergency meetings to put a plan into action. After a weekend of intense flooding, New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams wanted to know what went wrong with the New Orleans storm alert system, and why neighborhoods that were spared by Hurricane Katrina were now flooding.

“[The meetings are] not to make any presumptions or cast any aspersions, but to really do an autopsy of every single thing that happened between Saturday and Sunday.”

Williams was concerned that if a major hurricane hit, New Orleans would be vulnerable to catastrophic flooding, but had no idea that Mardi Gras beads clogging the storm drains was the bigger problem.

“If we can’t handle that amount of rain, we certainly can’t handle a hurricane. We’ve got some capacity issues, got some serious preparedness issues. That’s a longer conversation, but it’ll certainly start tomorrow.”

In A 5 Block Stretch, New Orleans City Workers Found 93k Pounds Of Mardi Gras Beads In Drains

But the bigger problem was hanging just over their heads in the trees, and clogging their storm drains according to Fortune. New Orleans is clogged with the ultimate symbol of the biggest party of the year, Mardi Gras, and that is the colorful Mardi Gras beads that are flung from floats to bystanders.

It was discovered in September that the New Orleans storm drains were packed with literal tons of beads. The city of New Orleans has 68k storm drains or catch basins, and to date, crews have only been able to clear 15k. But while clearing those storm drains, crews found 93k pounds of Mardi Gras beads in one five-block stretch of St. Charles Avenue (the main Mardi Gras parade route).

Dani Galloway, interim director of the city’s Department of Public Works, was shocked and says that made it clear that they need to continue clearing the storm drains of the Mardi Gras beads.

“Once you hear a number like that, there’s no going back. So we’ve got to do better.”

The next step is to find a better way to care for the catch basins, and perhaps find a way to block the openings with grates of some kind to block the opening to prevent Mardi Gras beads and other items from washing down.

The New Orleans City Council Is Looking For A Solution To The Mardi Gras Bead Problem

As a temporary measure, the city of New Orleans plans to use “Gutter Buddies” to block the storm drain openings for Mardi Gras, which falls on February 13th this year, according to Newsweek. Mardi Gras beads have been part of the Mardi Gras celebration since 1970, and they seem to be here to stay, so finding a way to keep Mardi Gras beads out of the drains is critical.

Howard Mielke, a pharmacology professor at Tulane University said that Mardi Gras beads pose an additional risk beyond their impact on the environment.

“If children pick up the beads, they will become exposed to a fine dusting of lead. Beads obviously attract people, and they’re designed to be touched, coveted.”

A local push, started last year is still in place for people to donate Mardi Gras beads so they can be recycled and used again.

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