NEW ORLEANS — Last Wednesday, July 10, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board says 4.9 billion gallons of rain fell on the city, enough to fill the Superdome more than five times.
This morning, city council members on the city’s Public Works Committee asked the S&WB about its response to the deluge and how well the city’s network of pipes, canals and pumps performed.
Many of the comments have been said time after time over the years. For instance, the pumps can only handle one inch of rain in the first hour and half an inch per hour after that.
Sewerage and Water Board also put a finer point on other response issues like the way pumps are turned on. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch. There must be a constant and sufficient flow of water that will prevent air from getting into the lines. Also, each pump must be primed before it begins operating. If there were an insufficient flow of water, the pumps would have to be turned off and the process repeated each time they’re restarted.
But Councilman Giarrusso also wonders if there are steps the public could take.
“What are some things citizens can do as small, maybe issues around the edges, as if we all had rain barrels. If we started looking at our catch basins a little more clearly,” Giarrusso told WGNO.
“Now the onus can’t be completely on the citizens. We have to make sure the system is operating,” he added.
And in fact, there were moments last Wednesday when parts of the system were not working. The S&WB says a couple of lightning strikes knocked out a pair of pumps briefly at one pumping station. But the problem was corrected.
The S&WB is also investigating an issue at another pumping station.
“Two of our four pumps went offline, and that was an internal situation we are in the process of investigating. I cannot tell you what happened. We don’t know,” S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban told the council.
Moving forward, additional staff like electricians could be added to pumping stations that currently do not have them assigned.