NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As flooding remains a top concern for residents, a New Orleans engineer says city officials may want to start looking beyond the obvious and below the street.
FOX 8 asked the city about its capacity to clean catch basins after recent rain events flooded some areas for the first time and others more than ever.
When it comes to vacuum trucks, the city currently has a total of eight. Three are set to be auctioned off, broken beyond repair.
Two are in the shop.
One will be back on the street in a week, the other in 30 days. Which means, right now, only three trucks are operating regularly. Turns out, that’s the same number of trucks the city had operating nine years ago. Back then, FOX 8 was told that was too few for any meaningful maintenance.
“There are 1,600 miles of streets in the city so it would take a few years of a cycle to go to all of them so the best thing to do is have them call in and respond to that specific complaint,” said Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant in 2010.
Presently, representatives for Mayor Cantrell’s office say two more $500,000 trucks are on order and will be online by the end of the year.
“That is being addressed. I’ve noticed vacuum trucks rolling around the city streets Uptown,” said Levees.org Civil Engineer HJ Bosworth.
Catch basins are less of a concern for Bosworth, who believes the real issue lies beneath the street.
"I'm standing on the site of a very large drainage box culvert that runs north south, generally speaking," said Bosworth.
“Those culverts can hold a lot of water. I don’t know that they’ve been cleaned in ages. I don’t know that there’s been any effort spent underneath Nashville Avenue to find out what may be in the way of the water that needs to flow from here to the lake,” Bosworth explained.
Bosworth says without hills, the city must rely on the cleanliness of the system to encourage water flow.
"The faster the water gets to the pump station, the better the pump stations work," said Bosworth.
Cleaning the culverts is not an easy task.
Bosworth says it requires workers access drainage tunnels beneath the street.
FOX 8 asked city representatives whether drain lines were recently cleaned and, if so, where? We were told, since January 1, the Department of Public Works has flushed 254,420 linear feet of drain lines and cleaned 3,207 catch basins.
City reps say, under a fully realized fair share agreement, the Department of Public Works would have two vac trucks operating in each council district which would allow for the city's 72,000 catch basins to be cleaned on a two to two and a half year cycle.