New Orleans Uses Gutter Buddies for Cleaner Drains During Mardi Gras

After a seven month cleanup effort new tools are being used to keep cleaner drains in New Orleans.

Dani Galloway is the New Orleans Public Works Interim Director, and she says that between September 26 and January 23 there were 7.2 million pounds of debris pulled out of catch basins in the city. Mixed into that debris was 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads.

The city’s problem statement required water to easily flow through the drains in the flood prone city while keeping everything else out of the drain system. Working with local contractors the city has deployed a system of ‘gutter buddies’, usually large sandbag material tubes filled with gravel or other filters. These gutter buddies work on the standard drain but the city has a large amount of French style drains that required a little more innovation. After sending her engineers out to the local chain hardware store they found a solution that worked with wire, metal grates and two-by-fours for the secondary drain systems.

After hearing about this phenomenon of too many beads in New Orleans drains on Monday and a fast google search I found several companies already selling premade gutter guarding systems, including ACF Environmental. Their GutterBuddies are built from synthetic filtering fibers, have a standard nine inch diameter and can be built in lengths from four to sixteen feet. They also sell products with great names like GutterGator and GutterEel. The company’s brochure says that the filters are lightweight, easy to maintain and install, and reusable.

New Orleans’ issue with beads and debris during Mardi Gras is a great engineering problem that occurs during a very short time window but has serious consequences if ignored. The solution involved a mixture of using currently available products and some innovation repurposing components from the home improvement store. My favorite part of the NPR article is the interaction with partygoers, one interviewed with a box of wine under his arm. Their first solution is to always catch every bead thrown from a float because once they touch the ground they’re dirty forever. Ending the process of throwing beads is not an option for partiers on the street but several petitions online are asking for less beads, no beads, or biodegradable beads to be thrown. In the coming decade more and more attention will be focused about waste and especially plastic draining into the waterways, it will be interesting to see how this battle of the beads ends.

(Images courtesy NPR and ACF)