NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Director Ghassan Korban revealed Wednesday that only about two percent of the debris clogging the underground portion of the Lafitte drainage canal has been removed.
Speaking at the S&WB’s board of directors’ meeting, Korban said about 950 tons were removed from the canal last month, including a car that went missing during Hurricane Katrina.
“We discovered a significant amount of debris, and that's where the car was found,” Korban said. “We've removed about 500 cubic yards of debris that was really piled up and impeding flow.”
But it turns out that the agency left behind far more debris than it removed.
By the S&WB’s estimates, about 22,000 tons of debris remains in the nearly three-mile length of the canal, meaning that only two percent of the existing debris was removed.
Korban said that the 98 percent of the muck left behind covers only about two feet along the bottom of the canal, most mud and silt. The largest objects and stacked mounds of impediment were removed by the contractors, he said.
“There remains about roughly 22,000 cubic yards of debris left in there, but it’s at a low level, about two-feet worth of elevation,” Korban said.
Why did the agency stop with so much debris left behind?
“That remains until funding is found, I guess, to finish that cleaning,” Korban said.
Korban presented a graphic to show that the canal cleaning cost $575,000, $100,000 for the inspection and $475,000 for debris removal using cranes, front-end loaders and other specialized equipment.
With much of the untouched since at least 2005 when Katrina hit, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who serves as the president of the S&WB, was quick to point out that it took decades of neglect to reach this point.
“It's an arduous process because this hasn't been done in so long,” Cantrell said. “Right now we're just playing catch up across the board.”
Cantrell emphasized the city is committed to eventually cleaning not only the numerous drainage canals that criss-cross the city, but all of the curb-level catch basins and underground pipes that feed into them.