Louisiana residents recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida are dealing with another problem, and it stinks - New Orleans garbage hasn't been collected for weeks.
Several residents told a City Council committee Friday that they haven't had their garbage collected since days before the storm hit on Aug. 29.
“The smell, you know the maggots, the juices that falls off the bags, it’s a lot of work,” Marlon “Buck” Horton told ABC station WGNO.
The stench – which has drawn countless bugs and rats – got so bad in parts of the city last week that lifelong New Orleans resident, Aaron “Louisiana” Grant, joked on Facebook that he and others should stage a garbage parade and dress in trash-themed costumes while depositing their debris at the doors of City Hall.
On Wednesday, he created a New Orleans Trash Parade group on Facebook. By Friday night, more than 1,900 people had expressed interest in joining.
Grant, 41, estimates the number of protesters Saturday afternoon was closer to 150, which dwindled to 100 as inclement weather dampened enthusiasm. Those who showed up did so in all sorts of creative costumes, including a fly, Oscar the Grouch (trash can included) and Grant’s favorite, Marie Antoinette, who held a sign that said: “Let them eat trash.”
Being witty and satirical in the aftermath of a disaster, said Grant, is “a coping mechanism.”
“When I called City Hall to apply for a permit, I was asked, ‘Is it a protest or a parade? Those are two different categories,’” Grant recalled. “I think it’s both. Everyone there was upset to a certain degree, and we’re using the opportunity to both vent and make a point.”
Only two bags of trash were placed in front of City Hall’s doors Saturday. But as Grant sat on his stoop Monday afternoon, garbage still hadn’t been hauled away.
“When I turn and look 360 degrees, all I see is trash everywhere,” he said. “It’s absolutely revolting. The temperatures have been in the high 80s and low 90s, so you can imagine how bad it smells.”
Last week, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell acknowledged as much, saying on Twitter: “No getting around it. The situation stinks.”
Cantrell said it’s a workforce problem: Before Ida hit, the sanitation department was already strapped for employees due to a worker strike. Ida made conditions considerably worse. According to other media outlets and an announcement from Cantrell, the city is now looking for help from outside contractors.
Grant, who manages a live music venue in the French Quarter, isn’t impressed. He said the garbage situation is “the most visible example of the failures of local government.” Elected officials should have planned for this, he said, and had contracts already signed.
“Twenty thousand electrical linemen showed up within days of the storm to help restore power – what’s the difference between them and sanitation workers?” Grant said. “Police are getting help, health care workers … why didn’t we get sanitation workers to show up?”
Contributing: The Associated Press