Army Corps Inspecting Corroded LA Flood Pumps
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reportedly discovered severe corrosion to a pump in the New Orleans flood protection system, just months away from hurricane season.
According to reports, the pumps were supposed to last 35 years but have only been in operation since 2018. While corrosion was only found at one of the three stations, the finding has resulted in an inspection of all 16 pumps in the system.
The three permanent canal closures and pump stations at London Avenue, Orleans Avenue and the 17th Street Canal cost a total of $726 million, 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, 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.
Corps finds corroded pumps in New Orleans flood protection system https://t.co/5Anyp7cMAd— NOLA.com (@NOLAnews) March 15, 2023
The pump had previously overheated in May 2022 and was taken out of service. At the time, officials speculated that the overheating could be 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, inspections are underway on the 16 pumps across all three stations. The Corps reported the preliminary findings show the pumps are seeing varying levels of corrosion.
A second pump at London Avenue also has been targeted for an in-depth inspection because of increased operating temperatures.
“Once we go through and conduct the assessment across the entire board to determine ... the root cause, we will develop a corrective action plan so that the Corps of Engineers can deliver the 35-year design life for these pumps,” said Jones.
Officials said that they have 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 is anticipated to cost several hundred thousand dollars.
NOLA.com reports that, in addition to the temporary repairs, the Army Corps is 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.
"In the short term, we want to make sure that all the stations are operating during this hurricane season,” said Corps spokesperson Ricky Boyett.
“In the long term, we are leveraging the entire Corps to ensure we can bring these pumps to their specified design life. When we’re looking at the long-term alternatives, we will undertake that work outside the hurricane season.”
A contract has not been finalized for the long-term review, but is anticipated to take at least two years and will need a funding source. The Corps also is evaluating alternatives for removing water from the canals in the event that pump capacity at individual stations drops below what is needed during hurricanes.