Rainwater updates problems at S&WB: 'I've been in situations like this before'

Rainwater updates problems at S&WB: 'I've been in situations like this before'

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There is progress to report when it comes to the New Orleans' drainage crisis, but Interim Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board Paul Rainwater sees the long road ahead before completely easing residents concerns.

At this time, 11 pumps and four turbines remain out of service, according to the S&WB.

"We are at 94 percent capacity, and when we are at 98 percent capacity, I'll feel much better about things," Rainwater said Tuesday.

Rainwater's expertise involves crisis management. He led the Louisiana Recovery Authority after Hurricane Katrina, and he was even hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Now, he is looking to turn around an agency drowning in a pump and power issue.

Rainwater said he is working directly with his employees on the street to solve problems.

"What is it they need to make their jobs a little easier? What is it that senior management didn't provide to them before?" Rainwater said.

Rainwater faces a manpower shortage and is currently working with the Civil Service Commission to change employment requirements and possibly increase salaries to compete with the private sector.

But he is also facing another task: regaining residents' trust after being misled by the previous administration.

"The one thing that we are focused on mostly here and that is transparency, making people understand that whenever they answer someone, whenever someone is asked a question and they don't know that answer, they go find out and they report it up the chain so that the senior leadership at the Sewerage Water Board, and the mayor, and the leadership of the city understand exactly where the pumps are at and understand where the power's at and understand their manpower situation so that we live a safer, more resilient city behind," Rainwater said.

"We've had concerns for a while, and we did ask the question are the pumps working and we were told yes," Lakeview Civic Improvement Association member Nancy Lytle said.

Lakeview's pumping capacity is at 76 percent.

Lytle is still disappointed in the S&WB handling of the Aug. 5 flood, but she said the time has come to work together toward a more reliable and accountable agency.

"I feel like any time someone does us wrong it's just as much as our fault for not being on top of it. We could be better too," Lytle said.

Performing better is Rainwater's focus. Employees are involved in weekly drills to test the system's performance during high water events.

Rainwater said when his time is up at the end of November, he will give a report to the mayor on whether he believes the drainage system, which is about a century old, needs a complete overhaul, or if it can be salvaged.

"Right now, we're at 29.5 megawatts of power, which is well above what you had on August the 5th," Rainwater said. "Until those five [electro-motive diesel generators] are up on October 2nd...and we're up around 40 megawatts of power, that's when I'll feel like things will be much better."

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