FOX 8 Defenders: Some drainage infrastructure appears non-existent on Mid-City street

Updated: Apr. 26, 2019 at 9:01 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When a Mid-City property owner couldn’t get answers on a clogged drain, she turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for help. We got on the case and learned that a critical piece of infrastructure meant for drainage appears non-existent on her block and is hard to find on several other city blocks.

“Nobody’s caring about this drain, or the block, and the problems we’re gonna have when rainy season starts or if we have a heavy hurricane season,” Colleen Mooney said.

Mooney owns property along the 800 block of Olga Street off Orleans Avenue in Mid City.

“We get a lot of water on this street, and we haven’t had it draining properly, and now I know why,” she said.

Just this month, Mooney’s tenant sent her pictures of water lapping at the front door. In an email, the tenant said, “the view out of the front door at 860 is getting alarming.” For several years, Mooney and her husband, Bill Cope, say they’ve cleared the catch basins of leaves and debris. But last fall she said it looked like concrete was covering the front of the drain.

Mooney says two catch basins on the block were clogged.

“I couldn’t even get a shovel into it to get whatever was stuck in there out,” Mooney said.

First, she called the city’s 311 line. Then she tried her District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso’s office. She says she was told that Olga was on the list for repair. Earlier this year, she says the flooding situation was even worse, and there are three new-construction homes on the block.

“We had a heavy rain, and one of my tenants sent me a photo, showing water intrusion into his apartment - not a lot, but enough,” Mooney said.

She discovered the catch basin that had been fully clogged in the middle of the block was no longer there.

“Someone had put the limestone (rocks) over it. So now the drain is totally invisible,” she said.

A quick dig revealed the metal structures are still there, but had been covered up. The mayor’s press secretary told us the Department of Public Works would assess the issue to determine whether something could be done to temporarily help with flooding, but didn’t say when that would happen.

Press secretary Latonya Norton said: “An incidental road repair project that includes a sewer line repair is planned for the 800 block of Olga Avenue and scheduled to begin in late 2019/early 2020.”

Councilman Giarrusso and his staff told us they’ve learned through the Department of Public Works that while they look just like catch basins, the metal structures Mooney was concerned about on Olga are not actually connected to any drainage underground. After reaching out to Giarrusso, we also learned that Olga Street used to have ditches meant for drainage, but we couldn’t find any sign of a ditch.

Olga isn’t not the only place where Giarrusso’s office explained ditches have been clogged or filled in. In fact, his staff identified streets in District A from Mid-City, to Hollygrove, to Uptown with clogged ditches.

A block along Arabella is another example. We found a red reflector marking a small culvert in a ditch. Adjacent to the Fairgrounds, Fortin Street has ditches, but they’re visibly clogged. The 1500 and 1600 blocks of Adams Street in the Carrollton area are also on the list, but drainage ditches were hard to find. Rocks and gravel cover many areas that are level with the actual street. And in Hollygrove, we found some signs of drainage in the 1600 block of Cambronne.

Giarrusso told us: “The City has said work will begin this year to help clear the ditches. We look forward to DPW starting the ditching work as soon as possible in tandem with planned road work so that our constituents have good streets with effective drainage.”

City Deputy CAO for Infrastructure Ramsey Green says in many cases, workers will use what’s called a flush truck.

“The equivalent of a vac truck, sucking, pushing that debris out of the ditch that goes under people’s driveways and then digging and cleaning the stuff out through, you know, good old-fashioned manual labor in some cases,” Green said.

In the meantime, back on Olga Street in Mid City, Colleen Mooney hopes her block can get through the rainy season without any major issues.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397.

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