City Hall issues call for reports on S&WB failures; repair costs hit $35 million


Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5.

As New Orleans officials continue daily updates revealing deep dysfunction at the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board, the city has put out a call for firms to diagnose the issues leading up to and after Aug. 5 flooding. According to FEMA, more than 800 insurance claims have been filed through its National Flood Insurance Program.

The city is requesting proposals from firms to "deliver a report that details in narrative, diagrams and data the causes of the flood events" and failure of its drainage pump-powering turbines, according to an announcement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office.

The statement says "the analysis will provide clear and accurate information to the public from an independent source regarding the system’s capacity and vulnerabilities that can be communicated to the public."

Proposals are due Aug. 21.
The S&WB also has emergency contracts with private firm C2HM to serve as project manager on repairs, and with Veolia "to immediately assess what equipment is currently working but may not be at optimal capacity so S&WB can make fixes and truly know the pumping capacity at this time." The agency will work with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Despite the Department of Public Works getting $3 million earmarked in its 2017 budget for catch basin repair, the city is working to allocate more funds to to clear backed-up drainage lines and catch basins.

In its latest update Aug. 14, city officials said a downed turbine gradually is coming back online after repairs, and 26 generators the city recently ordered are being connected; 18 generators are being installed at the power plant at People’s Avenue Canal in the St. Roch and at the main water plant on Claiborne Avenue. The total costs of additional emergency power and repairs is $35 million. S&WB has roughly $85 million to work with in its reserve funds.

Recently released S&WB logs show that its drainage and power systems were crippled well before August flooding. In March, the agency had declared an emergency after losing power to four turbines.

In a statement Sunday, Landrieu said it had become clear to him that the "system has never been 100 percent operational and at 100 percent of its capacity."

“Let me be clear: the buck ultimately stops with me,” he said. “I own it, I accept it and I am taking responsibility to fix it.

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