Downpour tests S&WB drainage capability, reveals broken underpass pipe

More flooding in NO: Are pumps working?

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Monday's downpour served as the first test for the new leadership at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and revealed the nearly century-old system still needs pipes and pumps repaired.

The S&WB drainage is running on diminished pumping capacity, as 107 out of 120 pumps were operating during the Monday storm.

"I think the team did a good job. Obviously, there are things we need to do better in the sense that we are making sure we are out there maintaining and looking at feeder lines and frequency changers and identifying issues and reacting very quickly," the S&WB Emergency and Support Team's Paul Rainwater said.

Multiple vehicles flooded at both the Canal Boulevard and Gentilly underpasses during the storm. The city recently installed water level signs to help drivers determine the depth at the underpasses.

One woman said her mother's car flooded at the Canal Boulevard underpass after a drainage pipe broke and sent water, concrete and dirt into the road.

"As she was going through, that water pipe busted and it surged the area with water," the woman said.

Rainwater said S&WB crews were notified about the drainage pipe near the Canal Boulevard underpass two weeks ago.

"Water burst out of the pipe causing, obviously, the spill that you saw on the road. We sent teams out. We are going to work on repairs, see what other issues are with that pipe. Obviously, it's old and needs to be repaired and teams are going to work 24/7 to make sure that happens," Rainwater said.

But residents said the problem has been an issue for longer than two weeks.

"There's got to be something really terrible going on over there that's really expensive to fix and nobody wants to get it fixed. You know who's going to pay for it? Me and you. That's been like that for years," Navarre neighborhood resident Kevin Seibert said.

Rainwater said he's planning to give Mayor Mitch Landrieu a report on possible upgrades needed when he leaves at the end of November.

"You are operating with old equipment. We are doing a study, working with the mayor. We are going to provide some options in the near future about what you need to do to upgrade this system, because you are operating on 25-cycle-power, 60-cycle-power with frequency changers that are fairly old in some instances. The teams do a great job of communicating with each other, but there are things they have to overcome," he said.

So far, the only damage reported due to flooding was to the cars that attempted to make it under the underpasses.

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