JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - After revelations of broken pumps and turbines in Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish officials are taking steps to gain more control of a major pumping station that services much of Old Metairie, as well as New Orleans.
They have asked for and gained more access to Pump Station 6. They're also asking for real-time data monitoring, which is something Jefferson Parish has been doing for more than two decades.
A major storm system pushed into East Jefferson from Lake Pontchartrain Tuesday afternoon, complete with a water spout that was visible for miles. Pump station operators doubled the pumping capacity at the Elmwood station.
Ten miles away at parish headquarters, Jefferson Parish drainage director Mitch Theriot monitors not just the Elmwood station, but a total of 181 pumps on both sides of the river. From there, he can see water levels in canals and which pumps are on using a system called SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.
"This gives us a lot more flexibility to monitor things that we didn't have in the past," Theriot said.
SCADA technology is more than 20 years old and was installed back when Tim Coulon was Jefferson Parish president.
"SCADA came on after 1995. The first vestige was to monitor the pumps, and we had cameras installed," said Coulon.
In Orleans Parish, drainage managers still depend on handwritten logs and walkie talkies. Some say those were contributing factors in problems that prohibited the Lakeview pumping station from running until seven hours after the rain began on Aug. 5.
"It would have been tremendously useful on Aug 5th. The general superintendent of Sewerage and Water could have pulled up information on a computer screen, and allocated resources," said mechanical engineer H.J. Bosworth.
Now, Jefferson Parish wants Orleans to put SCADA equipment on Pump Station 6 off Metairie Road.
"We are in conversations about SCADA on Station 6 so we can monitor what happens there," said Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni.
Flood watchdogs say the time is right.
"It's pencils and paper, it's archaic, that the Sewerage and Water Board would depend on hand logs in public safety situations like we've got here," said Bosworth.
The SCADA system not only shows which pumps are running, but which are down. Right now, two Jefferson Parish pumps are out, including one at Elmwood.
"We never like to have a pump out of service, and that manufacturer is working to get it back into service," said Theriot.
Meantime, Jefferson Parish officials say 99% of their drainage system is fully operational, as any one of dozens of computer screens can tell you.
When it comes to a SCADA-type system for Orleans Parish, it may take a while.
Tuesday afternoon, New Orleans spokeswoman Erin Burns released a statement saying: "The Orleans Sewerage and Water Board is focusing on getting generators and pumps operational again. That's priority one. ...We've issued a third-party RFP to produce a report which will help us see a path forward."
Burns went on to say, "That should help us make decisions in the future which could lead to upgrades in technology."