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Settlement Reached Over Corroded NOLA Pumps

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2024


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the joint venture who originally installed now-corroded pumps in New Orleans have reached a settlement with Louisiana after the state filed a lawsuit over the repair costs.

The pumps, a part of the city’s hurricane levee system, were supposed to last 35 years, but have only been in operation since 2018.

What Happened

The three permanent canal closures and pump stations at London Avenue, Orleans Avenue and the 17th Street Canal cost a total of $726 million and were constructed as one of the last projects of the $14.6 billion redesign and construction of the New Orleans hurricane levee system following Hurricane Katrina.

The new stations were designed to keep surges from Lake Pontchartrain from entering the city and threatening the interior floodwalls along the canals, while the pumps were designed to match the flow of water entering the canals from interior pump stations in moving it into the lake.

In February 2023, corrosion was discovered on the London Avenue pump after water was removed from the bay and the outer covering was removed. The severity of the corrosion was reportedly “well beyond what was expected during its entire 35-year service life,” said Bradley Drouant, senior project manager for the three lakefront stations.

The pump had previously overheated in May 2022 and was taken out of service. At the time, officials speculated that the overheating could have been caused by the possibility that its equipment became misaligned because the heavy pump station structure was sinking, or that a temperature sensor was faulty.

As a result of the findings, all 16 pumps across all three stations were inspected. The Corps reported that the preliminary findings show the pumps are seeing varying levels of corrosion. A second pump at London Avenue was also targeted for an in-depth inspection because of increased operating temperatures.

Officials said that they had plans to temporarily repair both elements of the flood protection system by June 1, in time for hurricane season. Lakey Inc. was hired to complete the repairs, which are anticipated to cost several hundred thousand dollars.

NOLA.com reported that, in addition to the temporary repairs, the Army Corps was planning a deeper inspection of the city’s combined permanent canal closure and pump stations to determine whether there are design flaws only five years after completion. 

Then, in March of last year, the Army Corps started repair work on the pumping stations.

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Earlier this month, the state of Louisiana filed a precautionary lawsuit against the Army to protect it from costs incurred for repairs of the corroding pumps in hurricane levee system. Additionally, the suit claimed that the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority raised concerns over potential corrosion while the pumps were being constructed. 

Lawsuit Settlement

“We did determine each one is going to need to some degree of rehabilitation or repair,” said Army Corps spokesman Ricky Boyette. He added that crews are already repairing the first four pumps.

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No work will reportedly be done on the pumps during hurricane season, which starts on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.

“That’s going to give us the capacity of stockpiling the parts that we need, as well as obviously we’re learning lessons with each of these pumps that we’re working on this year, so we’ll have greater efficiency moving into the next hurricane season,” said Boyette.

The repairs are expected to take up to three years to complete. According to the settlement agreement, the Army Corps will reportedly contribute $24 million and the joint venture that completed the work will take on the rest of the funds to correct the issue.

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The joint venture includes Kiewit Louisiana Co., Traylor Bros. Inc. and the M.R. Pittman Group. The pump manufacturer was Patterson Pump.

“The parties have agreed on a path forward with each taking on costs needed to address the pump corrosion issues,” the joint venture said in a statement.

It added that it was “committed to repairing and making incremental improvements to the project pumps and pump stations, which are designed to help mitigate storm damage and support the safety of the people in this region.”

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While the cause of the corrosion is not yet clear, the Army Corps will reportedly be replacing parts with stainless steel or abrasive blast-cleaning and recoating the pumps.

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Tagged categories: Coating failure; Coatings; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Lawsuits; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Repair materials; Sandblasting; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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