NEW ORLEANS – It’s surprising news for officials in New Orleans. A massive drainage pump that is crucial to getting water out of the city during hurricanes has corroded just 5 years after being installed.
With hurricane season less than 3 months away, crews are working to ensure the city is ready.
“We designed these with the intent these had to be 35-year pumps,” said Ricky Boyett, spokesperson for the Army Corp of Engineers in New Orleans. “We’re 5 years in, so it’s pretty significant and concerning.”
Boyett said inspectors found severe corrosion on one of the pumps, which has triggered an inspection of all 17 pumps at canal stations. This will take time because the pumps are underwater. Engineers will need to use stoplogs to block the water, so pumps can be examined.
“We’ve looked at a few other pumps so far,” Boyett said. “The corrosion, while present, is not anything that is risking the operation of the pumps today, but we still have more pumps we have to look at to ensure readiness for hurricane season.”
The pumps are used during hurricanes to move rainwater out of the city when the floodgates are closed to keep out storm surge. Their installation was part of a federally funded $730 million project after Hurricane Katrina. Without them, the next big storm could submerge hundreds of nearby homes and businesses.
“The big thing is to find out why exactly these pumps are corroding at a rate unlike what we’re seeing elsewhere,” Boyett said. “Once we know why, we can determine the fix.”
Boyett said the short term focus is to ensure the city is ready for the 2023 hurricane season. Long term fixes will be made outside of hurricane season when the risks are lower.
The good news is, the Army Corp is confident if a storm were to come today, the city is still prepared.
“We still have all the [pumping] capacity we need, and the gates are working,” Boyett said. “What we’re committed to now is ensuring that the pumps are going to work for not just this hurricane season, but that they’re going to work for every hurricane season after that.”
Engineers say all pumps will be inspected ahead of the June 1st start to hurricane season.