New Orleans Stormwater Systems Failing Again
Jim Gabour reports on the sorry state of New Orleans stormwater infrastructure—12 years after Hurricane Katrina and as the height of hurricane season approaches again.
Hundreds of miles of new and reinforced levees have been built since Hurricane Katrina, and the "Army Corps of Engineers built three huge new multi-million-dollar pumps on the Lakefront, so that when the engineers close the floodgates to keep the lake waters out, the pumps can be activated to keep excessive water from overwhelming the system," according to Gabour.
Yet, as spring rains have given way to summer showers and hurricane season arrives, residents and officials are realizing that the city is having trouble draining stormwater when rain falls on the city. Gabour credits some of this problem to the loss of trees after Katrina, but after floods on August 5, 2017, it's become clear that "even if the entire pumping system had been operating at maximum capacity […] the rain would still have overwhelmed the system." The system wasn't operating at full capacity on August 5, however, because "eight of the city’s pumps had been out of service before a drop of rain fell Saturday." In fact "[s]ubsequent investigation found that of 67 pumps on the East Bank of the city, just 58 were 'functional in some form,'" according to Gabour.
The fallout from the stormwater infrastructure operations failures on August 5 led Mayor Mitch Landrieu to fire all the top administrative personnel at the Sewage and Water Board on August 8.