Sixteen days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in New Orleans, about a third of the city’s residents – about 130,000 people – left without garbage collection.
Hurricane debris and weeks of garbage have created a putrid odor in many parts of the city, as rising temperatures and rain exacerbate the stench and spoiled food that some residents threw from refrigerators after they left. ‘Ida is still sitting on the sidewalk.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell acknowledged the problem in an address she posted online Monday.
“The # 1 concern that I know residents have is about garbage, garbage collection, garbage collection, the smell and when is my garbage going to be taken out,” she said.
Cantrell said the city faces several hurdles as it tries to clean up the trash, including a shortage of sanitation workers, overflowing landfills and a shortage of trucks.
“I know we had problems before Ida,” said the mayor. “I know it’s frustrating. At the same time, I will ask for your patience.
Resident Rebecca Jostes told NOLA.com that her trash can full of rotten food and hurricane debris has yet to be hit.
“We have dirty diapers, in the heat, in the sun,” she said. “Our waste is becoming quite fragrant. “
The city estimated it had 200,000 cubic meters, or 54,000 tonnes, of debris to clear from the hurricane and was only able to remove 5%, said Ramsey Green, deputy executive director of the city infrastructure, at a press conference. . Green suggested people prioritize what to pick up as trucks struggle to cope with the massive increase in trash.
“Our trucks, normally, it would take four or five blocks before we had to drop things off at the landfill. They do it after a block now, ”Green said.
Sanitation Director Matt Torri told the same press conference that the city hopes to complete its “first pass” through each block by this week.
A lot of trash is left behind after the first pass because workers can’t get everything, and Cantrell said this has led to conflict between residents and sanitation workers.
“The way to respond to this (…) is not to physically or verbally assault the people who collect garbage in our community all over our city,” she said, adding that the police had responded. to several sanitation-related incidents over the weekend.
Yet the sanitation situation in New Orleans is “scandalous,” said Charisma Acey, associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of California at Berkeley.
“It might not seem like a big deal, but waste management and sanitation is a vital function of the city,” Acey said.
Acey said the buildup of waste attracts rodents and vermin and increases the risk of exposure to bacteria, and the smell can cause headaches and other physical symptoms. Hurricane debris could also contain hazardous waste, proving to be hazardous as it lasts in residents’ quarters. During a storm the size of Ida, “God knows what’s going on on the streets,” Acey said, adding that cities should be better prepared for the cleanup.
That this is happening in a predominantly black city is not surprising, because environmental racism is so about waste management issues, Acey said, and these types of waste spillovers happen more often in communities of color.
As the city tries to move as quickly as possible, contracting more garbage pickups, residents are left with the scent.
“I have the flies, I have the midges, and I guess sooner or later we’ll have the maggots,” Embra Bridges, owner of New Orleans East, told NBC affiliate WDSU of New Orleans. Orleans. “The smell is awful, and when I smell it I get nauseous, so I have to keep my mask on.”