Fix the pumps

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Corps knows best

Let's take a closer look at the roofing repairs at the pump stations...

I found a pdf version of the September 25th New Orleans CityBusiness article on pump station repairs. I've downloaded just the article and made it available here. Or you can look at the entire edition of CityBusiness from that day here.

The pdf version includes the sidebars that were in the print edition but not the online edition. One of the items in those sidebars is the list of seven pump stations at which Crown Roofing Services will be doing roof repairs.

That list is:
Station 11 (repairs underway)
Station 13 (repairs underway)
Station 10 (repairs underway)
Station 6 (repairs underway)
Station 2 (repairs not yet started)
Station 3 (repairs not yet started)
Station 5 (repairs not yet started)

I applaud the Corps for getting this work underway and (hopefully) completed within 60 days, as the article says. Just for reference, the repairs at 2 and 3 and not particularly critical, as there isn't any equipment under tarps at those two stations. However, at station 5, in the Lower Ninth Ward, a motor-generator set (basically a small frequency changer) does have a tarp over it due to roof leaks. Here's a picture of the station 5 roof:

The section on the left is the part of the building where the pumping equipment is housed. The section on the right is the control room. The control room roof is fine, but you can see the pump house roof is in bad shape at its peaks. Considering the fast pace Crown Roofing is setting, I wouldn't be surprised to see work commence at station 5 within the next week.

However, the Corps appears to be a little short in the amount of roofing work that is necessary. Here's the station-by-station status report from the Sewerage & Water Board as of June 22nd. The first column lists all the stations requiring roofing work, and prioritizes them from 1 to 3, with 1 being the most critical need.

While the seven stations included in Crown's contract are on the S&WB list, there are SEVEN others that are not. I've listed those stations below, along with their S&WB repair priority and the applicable text from the Corps' own Orleans Parish Pump Station repair PIR:

Station 4 (S&WB priority 3): Corps says, "About 40’ of the metal roof along the north edge was peeled back, and should be repaired."
Station 7 (S&WB priority 3): Corps says nothing; roofing is not mentioned in PIR.
Station 14 (S&WB priority 2): Corps says, "The entire flat built-up roof and copper flashing were damaged. Approximate dimensions are 28.5’ X 37’...The control room roof and concrete block walls are damaged and require replacement."
Station 15 (S&WB priority 2): Corps says nothing; roofing is not mentioned in PIR.
Station 19 (S&WB priority 2): Corps says, "The roof is leaking along the valley running lengthwise along the center of the building, as well as over the electrical panels on the south side of the building. Repair of copper standing seam roof is recommended."
Station 20 (S&WB priority 2): Corps says, "The roof of the office building (41’ X 43’), consisting of a flat concrete slab, topped by built-up roofing, was cracked and leaking. There was evidence that the built-up material had blown off. It is recommended that the existing concrete roof be replaced (without the 5’ overhang), and that the new built-up roofing be installed."
I-10 station (S&WB priority 2): Corps says, "The roof leaks. It is apparent that the joint sealant between the pre-cast panels had blown out; therefore, all the joints should be resealed."

As you can see, most of that list is a priority 2. From what I can recall, there's no equipment with tarps at stations 4 and 7. I don't know about any tarping at stations 14, 15, 19, or I-10. However, I can definitely say that station 20 has a tarp over one of the control panels for one of the two pumps at that station. Who but the S&WB would know best which stations need roof repairs? Apparently the Corps would, because despite the Corps' own report recommending roof repairs, those repairs aren't included in Crown Roofing's contract.

Let's look a bit at the results of the Corps' delays and know-it-all attitude. Station 20 today stands as a monument to Corps inaction. The place looks like the storm came through yesterday. Here's a picture of a piece of the roof on the ground next to station 20:

The roofing is the black stuff laying on the grating.

And here's a ladder that was ripped off the second floor walkway:

In the photo above, you can see brand new levee repairs along the north side of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway about 500 feet from the ladder.

Here's a picture taken from atop those repairs. The generator building is on the right, and the pump house is on the left. At the bottom of the photo is the new armoring on the levee. As you can see, it's not like the Corps didn't know there was work to be done on the station. They were working within sight of it for most of the winter and spring. By the way, you can see in the two photos above that they have not put down grass on the levee, which means it still remains vulnerable.

Up close, you would never even recognize the station as a functioning facility, but it is - barely. There are two 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) vertical pumps at this station:

Their motors are housed inside the building. Power is transmitted via a right angle gearbox at the top of those large black columns to the pumps near the bases of the columns. By the way, look closely and you can see that all the flashing around the edge of the roof is gone. I couldn't see the roof when I visited, but I doubt it's in terrific shape.

The station has its own backup generator. The generator was placed at ground level when the station was first built. It was inundated by the Katrina storm surge. Here's a picture of the generator taken in December, from the Corps' own Orleans Parish Pump Station repair PIR. I can tell you that it still looks exactly the same. It will need to be replaced, as will much of the building surrounding it.

Yes, that is mud in the lower left of the frame. The floor of the generator building is covered in about a foot of mud that came washing in during Katrina. It is all still there, along with a particularly acrid smell of fuel. Here's a picture of the area just to the right of the above photo, taken just a couple of weeks ago:

Note the barrel on the left in my picture. You can see the edge of it in the picture taken by the Corps back in December. This place has not been touched in over a year, which is obvious from all the weeds you can see in the pictures above.

There's a kind of tragicomic beauty to Station 20. It's isolated, literally at the end of a dirt road, and there's no one around except for the birds. It's pretty in the same way that ruins elsewhere are pretty.

However, it shouldn't look like a ruin. It's a real, functioning piece of our city's infrastructure for which citizens pay taxes. Local residents and business owners depend on it for drainage. The Corps has let it rot, as with many of the other stations around town. All because they know best.


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