Community leaders hope remote technology improves drainage system

Published: Jun. 3, 2021 at 12:45 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 3:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The heavy rains this spring made many nervous about flooding especially as the region heads into hurricane season. One local area with a history of drainage issues is working hard to improve and hopes technology will help.

Rain flooding has always been an issue in St. Charles Parish. Walter Pilie lives in Ormond and actively monitors flooding in his Destrehan neighborhood. He said, “In December of 18 homes around here flooded.” Some homes on the street for the third or fourth time. A couple of weeks ago a similar rainfall got close, but water did not make it into homes. Pilie said, “It is making a difference. We just can’t get it fixed fast enough.”

Parish President Matthew Jewell knows they have a long way to go. He thinks the technology the Parish installed will help improve performance. Jewell said, “We’re really ahead of the curve when it comes to how we monitor our pump stations through a system called SCADA and telemetry.”

Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) and telemetry is a remote system that can activate pumps based on the water level in the intake area and allows operators to override the system from the parish emergency operations office if needed.

Jewell said, “When we’re sitting here at the EOC we can monitor all of our pump stations in the parish and see there you know checking fuel levels; checking if our batteries are charged on our starters, and everything and that allows us to make sure that they’re ready to go at all times.”

Getting water out of neighborhoods means using large pumping stations efficiently. Parish officials say being able to check them remotely gives them an edge.

Joe Ganote is the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in St. Charles. He said, “Even when there’s not a rain they are being run and tested and we’re constantly monitoring those things so there’s ever an issue; one goes offline; we know immediately before the rainstorm even comes.”

Ganote says the remote system is bolstered by the parishes 24/7 staffed emergency operations office. He said, “So having someone there just really cuts down that response time and allows our guys to communicate and the parish to communicate with the residents to protect them in a much faster response.”

The constant presence keeps citizens safer from all emergencies from weather events to industrial accidents. Ganote said, “They pick up the phone if it rings in here, they get a human being. You can take protective actions.”

The parish is also investing in its own weather station network. Jewell said, “So that allows us to see where we’re getting hit the most and focus resources to those areas.”

Jewell hopes the remote capability coupled with stepped up maintenance and a long-term drainage plan will bring the relief residents want.

“So, our motto is kind of conveyance is key, but we’re doing everything we can right now to get our drainage system that we have performing at its best ability and it’s happening and we’re seeing improvements,” said Jewell.

Residents just hope it’s enough to keep the next flood at bay.

Jewell said most of the remote stations around the parish show 50 inches or more of rain already in 2021 as June begins.

He said being able to look back at that data and see trends in areas with flooding issues is a crucial step in keeping the drainage system functioning well.

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