Third party to investigate New Orleans S&WB after flood fallout

Third party to investigate New Orleans S&WB after flood fallout

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a third-party organization will review the city's Sewerage and Water Board after employees were accused of spreading inaccurate and misleading statements about Saturday's flood.

"The public just wants to know could [the drainage system] pump water out and if it didn't, how much couldn't it pump out and what was the potential consequences? The third party will be able to answer those kinds of questions," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said S&WB's own after-action analysis is still underway, but he would like to find out if more could have been done to prevent some areas from flooding.

The mayor took no time cleaning house after the incorrect statements by S&WB representatives.

Tuesday, S&WB Director Cedric Grant announced his retirement at the end of the hurricane season. Landrieu accepted his departure and the resignation of Department of Public Works Director Mark Jernigan.

Landrieu is also asking S&WB Deputy Director of Communications Lisa Martin and General Superintendent Joe Becker for their resignations, as well.

Multiple times during a special meeting with New Orleans council members, Becker changed his story about the drainage system's pumping capacity on Saturday. Becker initially said the pumps were operating at "full capacity," but then changed his statement to "operating at full capacity available, which he said was 88 percent.

On Monday, Becker said seven pumps were down due to scheduled maintenance on Saturday. On Tuesday, Becker said 14 pumps were down, eight of which were broken.

"I apologize for the confusion for the message that we delivered for this event," Becker told the council.

"We are going to take action and remove the people who are not performing well, and we are going to put people in their who are performing well," Landrieu said.

Even with the inaccurate statements released and the pumps that were not operating, Landrieu believes flooding would still have been an issue with the amount of rainfall in the city Saturday.

"Mother Nature gave us something that is almost impossible to handle. This is not the first time it's happened, and I promise you it will not be the last time it happens," he said.

Grant will remain S&WB director until the end of the hurricane season. Jernigan's final day is Aug. 18.

The 14 pumps and three turbines not operating Saturday are still not operating and in need of repairs.

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