Citizens' group demands access to pumping stations

Citizens' group demands access to pumping stations

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city of New Orleans says 107 of the city's 120 pumps are now working, but a group of flood-weary citizens wants more - they want to see the pumps in operation  for themselves.

It's been nearly a month since Jerome Wilson lost his car in the Aug. 5 flood, and he has listened closely to the numerous news conferences on pump station improvements.

"Our thing is trust but verify," said Wilson.

Cassandra Bookman agrees.

"There was a lot of  money put into the system. Just let me know we are getting our money's worth," she said.

Bookman and Wilson are part of a citizen's group that has written to the Sewerage and Water Board and to Rene Lapeyrolerie, a new member of the emergency management team, asking for a guided tour of pumping stations in Pontchartrain Park, New Orleans East, Gentilly and Algiers.

"We want to know which ones are down, but show us the promise and where we are in the process," said Wilson.

The group's letter says: "We have serious concerns about the functionality of pumps and drains in our neighborhoods, and want to obtain a better understanding of the problems and solutions."

And though the group asked for a response within 48 hours, it HASs now been a week.

"I would like a response," said Bookman. "Tell me here's what we're going to do about it."

The group's members say the pumps can be a life-or-death issue, and they want to see a long-term plan for maintenance and improvement.

"I live in fear of a rainstorm, and that's no way to live," said Bookman.

The flood watchdog group welcomes the request.

"Based on the skepticism that we all have, it's appropriate that one group would speak out loud enough to get this kind of attention," said Research Director H.J. Bosworth.

Bosworth said it would be a good idea for the citizens to bring an engineer with them to any tour of the pumping stations.

"To be there to explain to them what goes on in these pump stations," he said. "They're very unique."

"I don't feel like we need an engineer," said Bookman. "It should be explained so the common man can understand."

The group says citizens pay tens of millions of dollars for drainage, and they deserves better.

FOX 8 asked the city for comment and received the following: "The city will work with the S&WB leadership to review and respond to this request. Community engagement continues to be a priority for our administration and all city agencies."

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