Hundreds of gallons of molasses cleaned from French Quarter street

Updated: Jul. 23, 2019 at 6:28 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Rampart street was finally clear Tuesday evening (July 23), after what’s usually a sweet treat turned into a sticky mess in the middle of the Monday evening commute.

A molasses spill shut down east bound Rampart Street overnight.

While the gooey, dark substance oozing down the street is clearly not a normal occurence, Alex Grousis-Henderson, a New Orleans resident -- said at first glance, the sight wasn’t all that strange.

“It is the typical color of what I see on the ground in the French Quarter," he joked.

But, Grousis-Henderson admitted it did smell a little better.

“It’s a change of pace around here and possibly a change of taste," he said.

The New Orleans Fire Department takes spills seriously and Captain Edwin Holmes said this one was no different.

“We respond to spills all the time and until you are able to get there and identify what the substance is, you are going to treat it as if it was a hazardous material,” Holmes said.

He said between 300 and 500 gallons of syrup leaked from a truck holding 4,000 gallons of liquid at the height of evening rush hour Monday.

“I don’t think any of it actually got into the drainage system. It’s molasses it’s moving kind of slow so we had a little time to get ahead of it,” Holmes said.

While a hazmat team used sand dykes to contain the spill, a private contractor working through the night to remove the sludge. Even through late morning, the smell lingered and crews were still sucking the diluted sugar from the street car tracks.

“As you can see and look around here . You barely know that anything had happened," Holmes said.

Although the food-grade molasses isn’t hazardous, Dr. Maureen Lichtveld with Tulane University said it’s a good thing the clean-up is being taken seriously.

“Our concern is that it would be clogging our drains and we want to be sure our drains aren’t clogged and we’ve gotten a lot of rain recently. It seems like we are doing what we need to do," Lichtveld said.

The molasses was more of a nuisance, but it did shine a light on the city's spill response.

“It’s about the size of the spill. It’s about where the spill occurs and it’s about how well the spill is cleaned up," Lichtveld said.

Holmes called it a good test if they have to clean up something less sweet in the future.

Workers used hot water pressure washers to pry the sticky liquid from the road surface and sucked away the debris with vacuums.

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