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Work Begins for New Orleans Pump Repairs

TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2023


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reportedly begun repair work on pumping stations in New Orleans after discovering corrosion on the systems earlier this year.

The pumps were supposed to last 35 years but have only been in operation since 2018, reports say. While corrosion was only found at one of the three stations, the finding resulted in an inspection of all 16 pumps in the system.

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 constrcted 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, 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, 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.

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 reported 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.  

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. 

What’s Next

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According to reports, crews have already pulled pump number one. Water was being removed underneath pump number five to conduct a camera inspection regarding the overheating.

“When we looked inside, we saw corrosion well beyond what it should be at this time of its design life,” said Ricky Boyett of the Army Corps.

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Boyett noted that the 17th Street Canal station was inspected and marked to be operational without risk during the hurricane season. Some minor repairs were made at Orleans Avenue and were described as “okay” with “some adjustments.”

Officials have said that they believe they can repair the damage in time for the official start of hurricane season on June 1. However, if more issues are found, temporary pumps may need to be brought in.

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The cause of corrosion has reportedly not been identified.

“It could be anything,” Boyett said. “From construction to the water to electric current in the water. It could be epoxy. We are considering everything right now.”

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“Anytime a pump fails there is a level of concern,” said Kelli Chandler with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority.

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Tagged categories: Corrosion; Flood Barrier; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Safety; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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