S&WB update: 16 pumps offline last weekend, Landrieu postpones firings

NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Mitch Landrieu postponed the firings of several Sewerage and Water Board members this morning to focus on the more pressing issues facing the city this morning, namely a drastically diminished pumping capacity due to a power turbine fire last night.

But the board wasn’t even able to start dealing with the current crisis before another bombshell dropped: there were even more pumps offline during last weekend’s flooding than previously reported.

Outgoing S&WB executive director Cedric Grant reported that a total of 16 pumps were out at the time of the flooding, including one serving the hard-hit Broad Street area.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how extremely frustrated and angry I am at the inability of the Sewerage and Water Board to communicate clearly and to give accurate information to the public, even under the most difficult of circumstances so that the people of New Orleans can do what is necessary to protect themselves, even in difficult circumstances,” Landrieu said.

The people of the city have been through a lot of adversity and are known for banding together and pulling through tough times, Landrieu said, but they need to be informed about what is going on.

“Even if in that storm it wouldn’t have contributed significantly, and we don’t know what that number is yet, it is clear to me that I did not receive the kind of information that I needed to make the decisions that are necessary to inform the public,” he said. “I am not happy about that.”

With the multiple revisions and additions to the post-storm reports that continue to come in after last week’s storm, Landrieu said he’s still not entirely sure everyone knows what actually happened.

“I am asking the board and directing the staff as president of the board to do everything that you can to secure the accurate information about what happened last week,” he said.

Last night’s turbine fire only contributed to an already bad situation.

“As if it couldn’t get worse, it did, because I have now come to learn that we don’t have redundancy in place right now in the event that that turbine went down,” Landrieu said. “Today, we find ourselves in a vulnerable position. Vulnerable means a position that if you can control, you don’t control, and that’s where we are at the moment.”

As for the resignations that Landrieu has demanded so far, Landrieu said he may ask for more as the situation continues to unfold.

That process, though, can wait for another day, after the current emergency stemming from the turbine fire passes, Landrieu said.

“I’m going to forgo going into aggressive detail about the after action report because it’s my considered opinion that when you’re in an emergency, that’s not the most constructive thing to do,” Landrieu said. “There is going to be plenty of time for that. Today is a time to take action and to rectify to the extent that we can the dual problems that we have about power and pumps.”