Fix the pumps

Friday, June 03, 2011

Debris, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14

We last looked in on the debris-laden levees lining the west bank of the Mississippi a little while ago (earlier parts linked above). It still doesn't look good.

As before, we'll start with troubled project WBV-14c.2. The last update we had was from late April, and had occurred after the Corps had actually had their contractor take samples of much of the project to determine how much debris was within the levees.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - West has posted four more inspection reports for WBV-14c.2 since then, evidence they are keeping a close eye on this project.

The May 6, 2011 report on an inspection conducted May 3, 2011 indicates debris was still a problem:
"Overall review of site visit:
- West end of job (Sta.0+44 to Sta.55+00). No material was being hauled into area during time of inspection. Area is up to elev. +10'. Degrade of existing levee is scheduled to begin next week. Much less debris is being found in the levee section.
- All sheet piling on the west side of Westminister Pump Station has been driven. Hpiles are currently being driven at monolith G.
- On the east end of the job (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00) material is being hauled in to fill the protected side berm. Some debris is being found on the surface in this area.

Debriefing:
- All issues and concerns were discussed between SLFPAW and USACE representatives that day. Debris throughout the levee system remains to be an issue, although the material being hauled in is cleaner than previous material."

Only three pages of debris photos were included with this update. Here's a sample:


The next inspection took place May 12, 2011, as documented in the May 13, 2011 report:
"Overall review of site visit:
- West end of job (Sta.0+44 to Sta.55+00). The new levee is up to elevation 10 in this area and the degrade of the existing levee is in progress. A large amount of concrete rocks is being found in the existing levee. Contractor will need to go through this area and pick out unsuitables."

Concrete in the existing levee, which is then being put into the new levee. Nice.

Just to remind you, the new levee is being built, in part, using the existing levee. When the new levee reaches an elevation of 10 feet, the contractor is to start "degrading" (i.e. taking apart) the existing levee and use that material to build the new levee up to the final elevation of 13.5 feet:


The problem is that the existing levee is obviously shot through with debris, as the Corps and the contractor, Phylway, have known for months.

The report continues
"- North/South levee (Sta.68+00 to Sta.112+00). Contractor was hauling in material to the protected side berm during site visit (approx. Sta.95+00). Material is much cleaner than previous material that had been hauled into job site but the area will still need to be picked. Pickers were at approx. Sta.105+00 during site visit.
- East end of the job (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00). No active work was being performed on this end of the job, but some unsuitables were found on the protected side berm.

Debriefing:
- SLFPA-W reps expressed their concerns to Jeremy George (USACE) about the concrete being found in the existing levee that is being degraded (approx. Sta.0+44 to Sta.55+00). Debris throughout the levee system remains to be an issue, although the material being hauled in is cleaner than previous material."

There's three pages of pictures of the concrete from the existing levee on the west end of the project:


And three pages of the miscellaneous debris from the east end:


Things got worse the next week. Here's what happened during the May 18, 2011 inspection, documented in the May 23, 2011 report:
"Levee:
- West end of project (Sta.0+44 to Sta.55+00):
The new levee is up to elevation 10.0' in this area and the degrading of the existing levee is in progress. Material is being placed and compacted atop the new levee. Material from degraded levee contains concrete, bricks and wood debris. SLFPA-W reviewed top of new levee ahead of placement operation and noted some debris. Approximately a 1' lift has been placed on the flood side berm between approximate stations 0+44 and 10+00. Material appears not to have been disked, cleaned of debris or graded to final grade; contains debris."

Concrete, brick, and wood now. Not good. the description continues:
"- North/South levee (Sta.68+00 to Sta.112+00):
Contractor wetting and compacting crown of levee between approximate stations 95+00 and 110+00. SLFPA-W noted concrete debris in crown and slope (protected side) of levee.
- East end of the project (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00):
Contractor placing material along the protected side berm. SLFPA-W reviewed several areas and noted that the debris found was large in size but not as abundant as previous material. USACE inspector stated that debris will be removed during disking operation before final grading.

Debriefing:
Reviewed areas containing debris with USACE inspectors.
West end of project approximate stations 0+44 to 55+00:
- Debris in material from degraded levee, material to be disked and picked before next lift is placed.
- Debris in material placed along flood side berm between approximate stations 0+44 and 10+00. Material to be disked and debris removed before final grading.

North/South levee (Sta.68+00 to Sta.112+00):
USACE to review area again for debris.

East end of the project (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00):
Debris in material placed along protected side berm. Contractor to disk and remove debris before final grading."

With this update, we return to the many, many pages of debris photos seen earlier. There's 11 pages this time around. Here's some of the photos of the bricks, concrete and wood coming out of the existing levee and being placed into the new levee:


The debris problems continued with the latest inspection, just before the Corps' June 1st deadline. The May 27, 2011 report of the inspection held that same day says:
"Levee:
- West end of project (Sta.0+44 to Sta.55+00):
The new levee is up to elevation 11.0' in this area and the degrading of the existing levee is complete. Material from degraded levee contains concrete, bricks, and wood debris. Material needs to be disked and picked before another lift is placed in this area."

I just can't believe that they got everything out. The new levee likely has a ton of debris in it, both from the old levee and from the borrow pit.

The report goes on:
"- North/South levee (Sta.68+00 to Sta.112+00):
Final 6" lift is being installed in this area. Pickers have picked the entire north/south levee this week. Contractor plans to seed this levee within the next few weeks. SLFPAW will be notified before the seeding of this levee for a final inspection.
- East end of the project (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00):
Contractor is placing material along the protected side berm at approx Sta.170+00. Throughout the levee and berm of this area concrete and wood debris was found.

Debriefing held between SLFPAW reps and USACE:
- West end of project approximate stations (0+44 to 55+00):
Debris in material from degraded levee, material to be disked and picked before next lift is placed.
- North/South levee (Sta.68+00 to Sta.112+00):
SLFPAW reps will be notified before seeding of this levee is to take place.
- East end of the project (Sta.119+00 to Sta.182+00):
Debris in material being placed and throughout levee section. Contractor to disk and remove debris before final grading."

I'll skip the normal pictures of debris and concentrate on another issue.

At the same time this inspection was taking place, the Corps was claiming they had hit their goal for providing 100 year protection for the greater New Orleans area by June 1, 2011. Those statements included some caveats about a few projects they had "temporary measures," but for the most part, they claimed their construction was up to the 100 year level of protection (LOP). They included WBV-14c.2 as built up to the 100 year LOP on this map.

According to the plans and specifications, the 100 year design height for this project was to be 13.5 feet (notably half a foot short of the official design height established in 2007). This May 27th report explicitly says sections of the project were at 11 feet that day. In addition, there were some small sections of steel and concrete floodwall being built. Look at the May 27th photos of those areas:


Does that look like a project ready to confront a 100 year flood? Yet the Corps claims it's ready. This appears to be more than stretching the truth.

So that's where WBV-14c.2 is at the end of May. But it is not the only project with debris problems. In the next part of this series, it becomes clear the problem is still widespread, and the SLFPA-W makes explicit what they feel is causing it.

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